Monday, July 4, 2016

Under Capricorn

Under Capricorn; drama, USA, 1949; D: Alfred Hitchcock, S: Michael Wilding, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton, Margaret Leighton

Sydney, 19th Century. The Irish immigrant, Charles Adare, is introduced to the secretive ex-convict, Sam Flusky, who pays him to anonymously buy more land as his proxy. Adare has a dinner at Sam's mansion, and there he meets his wife, Henrietta - and recognizes her from childhood when she was still living in a Irish town. Adare and Henrietta become friends, and he helps her gain more self-esteem in the chaotic household - much to the dismay of the housekeeper, Milly. After an argument at a party, Adare finally asks Henrietta why she chooses to stay with Sam if their marriage is so problematic, and she finally tells her story: back in Ireland, she fell in love with Sam, who was a stable boy, and they ran away to Scotland to get married. but her brother caught them and opposed their marriage due to class diefference. The brother attacked them, and Henrietta shot him - but Sam took the blame for her and was sent to an Australian penal colony. Henrietta thus moved to that Continent until he was released. In an act of jealousy, Sam shoots and wounds Adare. However, in order to save him, Adare tells the police it was all an accident. Henrietta and Sam thus return to Ireland.

The reception of "Under Capricorn" depends a lot on the viewers' setting and mental flexibility: those who are expecting another suspense film by Alfred Hitchcock will regard it as a disaster since it has no thrills, while those who can just accept it as a period drama will find certain redeeming features and even several interesting observations about human relationships. Hitchcock was already by that time 'typecast' as a suspense-and-crime director, and thus it came as no surprise that "Capricorn" was received negatively upon its premiere, since the audience were mislead as to what to expect, which caused even the director to apologize for the film, yet it is a relatively well made drama with some omissions, focusing more on emotions and quiet psychology of a forbidden "Romeo & Juliet" who had to flee to the Southern Hemisphere to continue their romance. Still, even as such, "Capricorn" is a 'lesser' Hitchcock, since it seems too dry, monotone and stiff to really engage more, with only moderate 'crumbs' of pleasure that compensate for its lax pace - among them exquisite long takes that last up to 10 minutes, an excellent Ingrid Bergman as the tragic Henrietta and the humorous moment where the maids prepare a breakfast for Henrietta, Adare and Sam, with a completely liquid omelet.


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