Friday, September 21, 2007

A review of William Wyler's The Children's Hour...

A Roman holiday of sorts, but thankfully not Abramovich's one. In participation with Goatdog's William Wyler blogathon.

William Wyler’s atmospheric drama has two teachers (Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine) be accused of lesbianism by a guileful schoolgirl, and then have that rumour ruin their job, their lives and their friendship.

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Somewhat of a taboo for the 60s, Wyler bravely tackles the subject with honesty and integrity, and his cast work well to bring the tense atmosphere to us. As the engaged, straight, Miss Wright, Audrey Hepburn suffers commendably, fighting always for the truth – as she sees it, and as a result, losing her fiancée. Shirley MacLaine is the more ambiguous character of the two. It is not on whether the allegations were true (it is clear from the off that they are just slander of the worst kind from a bored, vindictive little girl) that the mystery of the film lies, but in whether her character does secretly love Hepburns’, as more than a friend.

The children are less apt in their roles. None of them have names worth remembering, but the main one who spreads the rumours does it with such exaggerated facial expressions that it is difficult at times of most intense drama not to laugh, and the other girl, who aids her in the spreading of lies, is also laughable in her “fear.” However, if the intention was to make us dislike the children as much as possible, then they have succeeded.

But the message is clear – lies of such a powerful decree – even if they are spawned off what is guessed to be the truth, will damage others. It’s a hefty topic, and one that lacks slightly, due to the censorship of the time, no doubt, but the behaviour and actions of the characters still ring true today – the hypocrisy of the kind aunt, the spreading of cruel lies just for fun, the boyfriend’s abandonment, and how, at the end of the day, it is always the innocent that suffer, yet some, like Hepburn’s character, are brave enough to walk out in the public, with their head held high in the air, because they know they were innocent.


Justine said...

Unfortunately, I can't remember the source but I was reading a critic's view on the portrayal of lesbian and gays on the screen during the 1960s. This film, among others, was mentioned as being one of the landmarks. However, the other also went on to say that while for the first time Hollywood was dealing overtly with these issues, they were doing it with an apparent bias that homosexuality is either rooted with mental illness and/or there is no such thing as a happy and healthy relationship. Personally I'm on the fence not having seen (or apparently, not being able to remember) the other films in question. I think the observation is apt, while being difficult to argue either way. I guess I should get to some kind of point, I suppose I'm curious as to whether this film is a landmark and groundbreaking film, or just working to perpetuate, however discretely negative ideals and stereotypes about homosexuality?

Besty said...

Hi Emma, you feeling better?

He's not worth it, he's too old for you anyway, what's he ever done for you, and you're too good for him.

As you said, how can you love him so much when you don't even like the bloke?

And the same goes for Mourinho.

Have a nice weekend Ems.

Emma said...

Oooh. I hadn't seen this. I didn't get a notification that you'd commented, otherwise I would have replied sooner!

You're right, of course, but, I've been obsessed with him for the good part of 6 months now, and it's not like some cute Crouch thing where I can just laugh it off. He's constantly on my mind.


Campaspe said...

Despite the censorship constraints that meant the title couldn't even be used, let alone the accusation of lesbianism, I do prefer Wyler's earlier version of the story, These Three. Bonita Granville, who plays the lying child in that movie, is possibly the best thing in it. She went on to make numerous other movies but she was never as good as she was there.

That said, Shirley Maclaine was very good in this one.

The Children's Hour Movie said...

I never got any chance of watching this film but the film is looking to be good one..I wish I will watch this movie very soon.

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