Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity; Drama/ War, USA, 1953; D: Fred Zinnemann, S: Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancester, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Philip Ober, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Warden

Hawaii, a few months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Soldier Prewitt arrives at his military base. The egoistical Captain Holmes immediately wants to have him to win the boxing match for his Company, but Prewitt wowed never to fight again after he accidentally punched a fighter so hard he lost his sight. Thus, Holmes' goal is to make his life at the base as unpleasant as possible until he agrees to the boxing match. Still, he meets Lorene in a night bar and falls in love with her. Sergeant Warden, on the other hand, is having an affair with Holmes' wife Karen. After Prewitt's good friend Maggio deserts his post to drink at the night bar, he is arrested and brought to the military prison run by his arch enemy "Fatso" who beats him heavily. After Maggio dies, Prewitt kills "Fatso" and hides at Lorene's place, wounded. When the attack on Pearl Harbor starts, Prewitt decides to return to his unit, but is shot and killed in a misunderstanding. Lorene and Karen leave Hawaii on a ship.

The famous scene of a couple kissing and lying on the beach, indifferent to the sea waves splashing them, originates from the classic and critically acclaimed film "From Here to Eternity", winner of numerous awards, among others 8 Oscars and 2 Golden Globes; it does not reach the grasp of a masterwork, but it is still nonetheless an excellent achievement. At first glance, the modern viewers may wonder what is the difference between a TV soap opera and this film, but after viewing it the fundamental differences will slowly start to become more and more apparent and undeniable, most notably in the compact story written with care and intelligence. Some of the dialogues are simply plain clever, like in the scene where Sergeant Warden arrives at Karen's home in the middle of the rainy night and she has this conversation with him: "If you're looking for the Captain, he ain't here." - "And if I ain't looking for the Captain?" - "Then he still ain't here."

Montgomery Clift is brilliant while Frank Sinatra may have won his best supporting actor Oscar only because he plays a 'pity character', yet his hyped performance as Maggio is still a great role, if anything just for the funny scene where he drinks; Lorene tells him: "Drinking is a weakness" and he replies: "I grant you that!" She then asks Prewitt: "You don't like weakness, do you?" and replies with: "No, I don't like weakness...but I like to drink!" Having the Pearl Harbor attack show up only in the last 13 minutes of the film, the story achieves an interesting setting: life was not idyllic and peaceful before the start of World War II, it was always a conflict. It is a story about loyalty and honor, clearly showing how Prewitt was bullied by others because he did not want to attend the boxing match, fighting his "personal war" for integrity ("You guys want to put the screws on, go right ahead. I can take anything you can dish out.") against his enemies, the egoistical Captain and Prison Sergeant. It may be an uneven shift from a normal drama to a war film, but it somehow works all right: the characters are "shaken away" from their problems by bigger things in life.


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