Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spellbound 1945


Ingrid Bergman is a psychiatrist who falls in love with Gregory Peck, the new chief of the mental hospital, who soon turns out to be an impersonator who has possibly done away with the guy he is impersonating, possibly in a fit of insanity. He is heavily amnesiac, even to the extent of his own identity. The impersonation and murder is soon discovered, and the love birds are on the run, and we have a police chase with generous doses of psychology and romance.

This is a romance which tries to resemble Casablanca while inflicting psychology lectures as painfully ham handed as the concluding part of Psycho. People are interested in the workings of the mind and anyone who pretends to explain it with minimal plausibility, like the recent Inception, is likely to rake it in at the box office. It is not the gurus and babas alone that try to play on the gullibility of the public at large. The present movie cashes on the same propensity. It is romance swarded in thick layers of  plausible sounding psychoanalytic jargon mercilessly attributed to the late Freud. Dream analysis is ridiculously used as a forensic tool. We have Ingrid Bergman as a psychiatrist giving the works medically and otherwise (for example, her trademark asymmetrically pathetic smile) to a boyish Gregory Peck, as she endearingly but maladroitly dons and removes her spectacles which does not entirely succeed in giving her the requisite scholarly touch . Is this the star of Autumn Sonata and A Woman called Golda? The film starts laboriously and continues in the first gear for a good two thirds till some heat is finally generated.

There is little to redeem this movie, not even the stellar cast. It is not of the stuff of Rear Window and Lifeboat. It is bewildering that it was nominated for best movie and best direction. Old is not always gold and Hitchcock is a variable dish. He may be an expert film-maker, as he is said to be, certainly a showman, as he proves himself on many an occasion, but he is not a serious or great artist and has nothing very profound to say about the human condition. He is a good spinner of dark fairy tales with an occasional ability to tingle our nervous system. He appeals to our morbidity, and the terror he evokes, if and when he does--is spooky or booish in nature--not the kind rising out of pity and pathos. Hitchcock has nowhere in his visualization of dreams reached the macabre beauty of the opening sequences in Wild Strawberries or 8 1/2. He is a great entertainer, when he comes off. At his best, nobody can deny that he excels in suspense, .

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