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"You Must All Get Away Before Something Happens"
on October 15, 2005
This stunning and atmospheric film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who were the team behind Archer Productions, is an engrossing and moody masterpiece one might term, religious noir. It was shot in lush colors by Jack Cardiff with a score by Brian Easdale performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. It is the story and the atmosphere created by Powell and Pressburger that gives this adaptation of a novel by Rumer Gooden its noirish feel, however, and it would easily be just as good in black and white.
Deborah Kerr is Sister Clodagh, fullfilling her duties at the Servants of Mary in Calcutta. She is assigned to helm St. Faith, high in the Himalayas, and is given the charge of Mother Superior in order to do so. She will be the youngest ever to hold such a position, and it is one her Mother Superior believes she is not ready for. Once she reaches the lonely place over nine thousand feet from the earth, with her small group of Sisters, she will discover that while they may be in closer proximity to the heavens, they will be much further from God.
The isolation, the drums, and the wind, will have an effect on each of the Sisters, including Sister Clodagh. She is strict and demanding, but becomes concious of the danger here when she herself begins to drift and dream of her past in Ireland before joining the Servants of Mary. Kerr has a graceful Irish beauty that is almost stunning in these flashback scenes. She was young and happy, and in love. She was from a small area and did not want to be shamed when the one she had given her love to decided to move on without her. Her decision was born out of her desire to avoid humiliation.
An older Sister will also find herself recalling a past she had thought forgotten, and no amount of hard work can keep her mind from it. It is the outside element of Mr. Dean (David Farrar) that will set in motion the biggest change, however, as the already unstable Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron), young and quite beautiful, is driven by repressed passion and jealousy to utter madness. She becomes jealous of Sister Clodagh, whom she believes wants the attention of Mr. Dean. Sister Clodagh, who originally found Mr. Dean to be objectionable when sober, and an abomination when drunk, begins to finally soften, and even goes so far as to confide in him her fears about what is happening to all of them.
Farrar is excellent as the somewhat irreverent womanizer who knows how to push Sister Clodagh's buttons. There is one scene where he is drunk and sings of how he cannot be a nun that infuriates Sister Clodagh and worries her at the same time. Sabu is also excellent as the young General who sends the children there to learn and is just as eager to do so himself. Jean Simmons shines as the exotic and sensual Kanchi. She is brought there by Mr. Dean for the Sisters to "tame" but her wild and earthy spirit will seduce the General and he will run off with her for a time. Simmons' dance sequence may be famous, but it is the scene between Kanchi and the General, where he refuses to beat her for stealing a necklace, which holds the most tension, and is charged with passion.
Kathleen Byron's performane as the unbalanced Sister Ruth is unforgettable. The elements she is exposed to, from the remote isolation of St. Faith, to the charming scoundrel Mr. Dean, will turn her already precarious mental state into true insanity. She will expand the tiny bit of attention shown her by Mr. Dean into a desire so intense, her fragile grip on reality will slip away. She orders a deep burgandy colored dress and makes the decision to leave the other Sisters. Once spurned she will return, with a fever of madness behind her eyes the viewer can actually see. Byron's scene in the doorway on the cloister, high on the mountains, as Sister Clodagh rings the bell Ruth had been so fond of, is unsettling.
Sister Clodagh will come to terms with the fact that we are all human, even herself, and will begin to learn humility. She will take a lesser post elsewhere and bid farewell to Mr. Dean, asking only one favor of him as she leaves. It is a request filled with sadness, as it is obvious to her now that they should not have come here, despite the fact it has made her grow personally, and given her a better understanding of human nature, and human weakness.
This is a very unusual film with an exciting and memorable conclusion. It will intoxicate the viewer with its mood, like the scent of the flower after which this film was named. A must see film.