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EugeniaH

Internal Battles in Classic Film

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In classic film, there are examples of man's (or woman's) struggles with internal demons that can be as engaging and gripping as outer battles with others. The Lost Weekend and I'll Cry Tomorrow are but two.

 

This thread isn't necessarily about drug or alcohol addiction - it is generally about the inner battles of human beings portrayed on film....

 

Is there a classic movie that particularly engaged you as a viewer around this subject? We could even talk about inner conflict in a specific character (e.g. George Eastman in A Place in the Sun, as he struggles with his feelings about Alice Tripp, leading to the dramatic outcome.)

 

 

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Wow, great thread idea, Eugenia. I love this kind of discussion.

 

There must be loads of movies with that theme - a "classic" theme, that one. I know I'll be able to think of more later, but for now, the one that came to mind was the Anthony Mann western, *The Naked Spur*.

In it, the James Stewart character thinks he wants to turn in a wanted murderer (Robert Ryan) for the reward money, the "bounty". But it does not rest easy with him, he's torn between the acute desire for the money, and the unworthy deed he is committing (bringing a human being to justice, which in this case means hanging.) It is not so much that the act is unworthy, but Stewart's character feels conflicted doing it.

Come to think of it, maybe I came up with *The Naked Spur* because I had Janet Leigh on my mind. (She's in *TNS*; she's also in *Scaramouche*, which I just saw.)

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The first character that popped into my head while reading your post was Fred Dobbs and greed that overwhelmed his mind. (That's Fred Dobbs the character - not the esteemed TCM poster).

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Jane Wyman was magnificent as Orry Baxter, a woman desperate to love her last remaining child, yet so terrified at the pain losing him would cause, she deliberately distanced herself from him. It's wonderful to watch her struggle to overcome her fears and at the end let herself love him.

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Before I answer with a "classic" film, I have to put in a plug for the greatest film ever. Period.

 

Angi Vera (Hungary, 1979) - A young idealistic nurse is recruited by the Communists right after their post-WW2 takeover of the country, and sent to a cadre training school to receive a proper Marxist education. She meets all kinds of fellow incoming students, ranging from hard core Stalinists to hedonists who had made their mark resisting the Nazis. She somehow manages to befriend them all.

 

Soon after her "classes" begin, she falls in love with one of her instructors, one who's on the more idealistic side of the spectrum. They have a brief affair, but when the most hard core woman of the entire lot sees her leaving her lover's bedroom after midnight, we know that there's going to be trouble.

 

And trouble does come, in the form of a denunciation before a mass meeting of fellow cadres, where she hears the accusation against her, and immediately turns on her lover in an act of self-preservation. And yet we know that she's hiding her true feelings, since when her lover takes the floor to say that their love was sincere, her face begins to weaken, revealing the human being underneath.

 

And then in what I consider to be one of the finest acting performances I've ever witnessed, Angi Vera (Veronika Papp) turns on a dime, realizes where she is, realizes that her entire future hangs in the balance, freezes her face, says *NO* - I never loved him, and goes on to "confess" her "mistake" in the manner that she knows will earn her a reprieve, as her lover is thrown to the wolves.

 

Result: A nice cushy job on a Budapest newspaper, arranged by the very same hardcore woman who had been her accuser! And yet in an unbelievably poignant closing scene, the two of them are being driven by limo to Budapest along a rutted country road, when suddenly they pass a hunched over woman trying to peddle a bicycle up an impossible hill. At this point, Angi Vera looks back and sees that the woman on the bicycle is one of the free-spirited cadres who had refused to buckle and was expelled for her resistance. We know, and Angi Vera knows even more, that this disgraced former comrade is going to be pedaling an uphill path for the rest of her life.

 

And the look of sheer horror on Angi Vera's face when she realizes the cost to her soul of her decision to betray her lover, and when she realizes the grim life ahead of her in spite of her nominally privileged immediate future, is a look that's impossible to describe. It's the look of a person who knows that she has sold her soul to the devil, and knows that she will be paying the price for an Orwellian forever.

 

Okay, end of digression. But God, I'd pay two hundred dollars for a good subtitled DVD of that film.

 

OK, to restrict the choice to the "classic" American movie repertory, can there really be anything other than Casablanca ?

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Very broad and interesting subject. I was happy to see that *The Story of Adele H* will be on TCM on July 26. It's the story of the daughter of Victor Hugo, who is totally obsessed with love for a British soldier, Lieutenant Pinson. He does not return her love. She follows him to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her obsession drives her mad; by the end of the film she has followed him to Barbados and been confronted by him on the street, but has become so obsessed by obsession that she does not even remember what the object of her obsession is. Destitute and sick, she is taken home to Paris and put into an asylum where she spends the rest of her days, living until the age of 85. This is one of the most disturbingly tragic films about madness. Directed by Francois Truffaut. Isabelle Adjani was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar that year and should have won.

 

Of course, if you wanna talk drugs, *Requiem for a Dream*, another one of the great downer films, is a film in which everyone struggles with their inner demons. Ellen Burstyn was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar that year and should have won.

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For a drug-related film, I'd go with Al Pacino in The Panic In Needle Park. That was his first starring role, and one of his best.

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The Plot of THE STORY OF ADELE H reads more like a modern day Soap Opera (Jody Arias maybe).

 

How anyone would want to move from PARIS to Halifax, Nova Scotia in itself proves 'truth is stranger then fiction' (and leave all those French Men behind !)

 

Twink

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*Kagemusha* (1980)

 

A thief is saved from execution because he looks like a powerful warlord and can be his double to confuse the enemy and be a protection.

 

The internal conflict of the thief is startling. It is the nature of such a one to despise aristocrats and their power. He accepts the job only because the alternative is death. It is a struggle for him to set aside his old beliefs and see the value of the system. He learns much about himself and about the true ways in which the world works.

 

This is exemplified when the warlord dies and he is to be sent away. He argues to continue his role because he owes a great debt to society which is personified by the warlord and it was the warlord's last wish the deception continue so that the enemy does not know the clan does not have a good leader. It displays also that he has overcome his innate feeling that he could never be of value to any person in any way and that now he wants desperately to have worth even if it is as a lowly impostor and to serve a dead master.

 

It is hard work to learn all he needs to know if he is to appear to be the late warlord in daily life and he must overcome his natural antipathy towards work. It is also great awakening for him because he was of the belief that aristocrats had great freedom and could do as they wish at all times and he comes to learn that the demands of politics, society and family chain them into lockstep more brutal than what any prisoner must endure.

 

We see at every stage from his first introduction to the warlord to his final dismissal in the rain that he must overcome what he was.

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*The Thomas Crown Affair* (1968)

 

A wealthy financier suffers extreme dissatisfaction with his life.

 

He has wealth and power. He feels in many ways that life is a game and that winning is so very easy that victory has no true value. He searches out a new venue for his abilities and so constructs an elegantly executed crime. It is an easy victory also and so his moment of joy fades quickly and he sinks back into ennui.

 

The entrance of a suitable opponent investigating the crime awakens his spirit. It raises also the spectre of the one facet of life which he has not mastered: relationships.

 

He must struggle in the choice to maintain his persona or let his feelings of love dictate his actions. He must struggle also with whether it is right to test whether she loves him as he loves her.

 

He loses these struggles. In one brief moment at the end we see that he realizes that he can not change who he is and that he must live for all time with the bittersweet realization that winning can mean losing that which he wants most.

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*Formula of Love* (1984)

 

A fakir called upon to make an object of love real.

 

He is sought by many people. Wealthy aristocrats want him because of his great powers to see the future, heal incurable diseases and transform base metals into gold. Authorities want him because he has defrauded people in a wide swath across several nations.

 

He has great wants. Attention, admiration and even gold are losing their allure for him because he has received so much of each and those rewards disappear quickly. He feels a powerful need to extend himself further and further in order to prove his self-worth. He comes to believe that he must find the ultimate power which is the ability to create love. A woman loves him deeply but he insulated himself from that because he feels it is freely given and that which is free has no value.

 

It is a great struggle for him to accept that he is not capable of creating love by formula and the revelation causes him to put a pistol to his head and to pull the trigger. He would be dead then if it were not that his assistants are also con men and had faked their loading of the pistol.

 

It is his nature to perform a great feat of magic and run away with his client's money before the trick is discovered. He overcomes that nature by realizing that being surrounded by people who care for him is more important than eluding authorities.

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James Stewart in *Vertigo* . Can he climb the stairs to save the girl? Does he ever really love her, or does he just want to possess her?

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Terrific answers, everyone. As another poster mentioned, "internal battle" can cover a broad range of topics. The decision to cheat, to steal, to commit murder...

 

How about a spiritual battle? As I was getting ready for work this morning one of my all-time favorites popped into my head, *The Passion of Joan of Arc* (1928). No movie more beautifully illustrated the inner battle of one's conscience and spiritual beliefs, as Joan fights for what she knows to be true for herself as she faces torture by her inquisitors and certain death. A masterpiece!

 

Edited by: EugeniaH on Jun 18, 2013 6:28 AM

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