27 January 2012 | krishkmenon
The Valiant Lady
The story of Mrs Violette Szabo as portrayed by Virginia McKenna is poignantly brought to the screen. The exploits of an ordinary woman who proved to be - "The most fearless of all women SOE operatives" - as described by none other than another famous SOE operative Mrs Odette Churchill who survived the war undergoing almost similar experiences is a must. The film in almost three compartments re-traces the life of Violette from the time she meets her husband on Bastille Day in 1940 and their whirlwind romance, flashes to 1942 when her child is celebrating her 2nd birthday when she receives news of her husbands death at El-Alamein. It then fast forwards six months when she is recruited by the SOE as she had perfect qualifications for the post which included being a crack shot with the rifle (which however is contradicted by SOE records which state that she spoke French with an English accent...). The next part of the film features her training where she excels but sprains her ankle and has to sit out the first assignment by her team. During her convalescence she has to confront her father who feels she is not doing enough for the war effort,brush aside her guilt in abandoning her daughter etc.( Virginia McKenna handles these emotive scenes with remarkable talent) Her first assignment passes off quite well but the undertones of the danger of such attempts by agents are underplayed by the director. Her second assignment just after D-Day puts her a prisoner with the Gestapo after she has valiantly stood upto to a single-handed encounter with a German patrol - the torture she suffers and her ultimate death facing a firing squad at Ravensbruck Concentration Camp is leaves the viewer with no doubts on the methods used by her captors without depicting violence per se. The third part of the film is largely based on reports given by the French Resistance & Nazi records & reports by fellow prisoners of Ravensbruck all poignantly brought to the screen. The finale where we see her 5 year old daughter being received by King George to honour her mother posthumously with the George Cross brings a lump to the throat. Incidentally the episode of her shopping in Paris for her daughter while on assignment is corroborated by others hence not fictionalised for the film. In all a wonderful film that makes one wonder-struck with the exemplary courage of ordinary people who became legends in their time.