A superbly restrained piece of filmmaking, with Zinnemann directing in simple, unadorned style and Hepburn giving a truly radiant performance. Hepburn is the daughter of Belgian surgeon Jagger, and she has the desire to become a nursing nun in the Congo, which was still overseen by Belgium
at the time, several years prior to WWII. After experiencing the rigors of a convent, Hepburn goes off to a school where she learns tropical medicine. Her desire to go to the Congo is sidetracked when she is first assigned to a mental hospital in Belgium, where she is almost killed by a maniacal
patient whom she thought she could handle. Eventually, she travels to the Congo, where she is disappointed by her assignment. She'd hoped to do her nursing with natives, but is sent, instead, to a hospital for Europeans where she meets crusty Finch, a dedicated surgeon who has no room in his life
for women or religion and devotes himself to medicine. Hepburn understands that she must shed her old ways and plunges into her work. Assigned to escort a Belgian official back to the motherland, she arrives there just as the war is beginning. When Jagger is killed by Nazis as he's helping
refugees escape, she realizes that she is incapable of keeping her dispassionate attitude and that she must leave the convent in order to fight against the oppressors.
This was perhaps the only movie from this studio (Warners) in which there was no music over the final titles. No one could decide if Waxman should write an upbeat or a downbeat theme because the choice would imply an editorial decision on the part of the filmmakers, something that Zinnemann
zealously and successfully avoided all the way through. Jack Warner fought against that viewpoint, but Zinnemann prevailed, and the end credits are accompanied by silence. Assistant director Piero Mussetta used 70 members of Rome's Royal Opera Ballet to stage a sequence in which nuns are involved
in various rituals. That sequence should be viewed by every film student as an exercise in how to handle a large group. It's hard to believe that this rare and moving film did not win one single Oscar of the six for which it was nominated; most went to BEN-HUR, with the others going to Simone
Signoret and the screenplay for ROOM AT THE TOP.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A superbly restrained piece of filmmaking, with Zinnemann directing in simple, unadorned style and Hepburn giving a truly radiant performance. Hepburn is the daughter of Belgian surgeon Jagger, and she has the desire to become a nursing nun in the Congo, w… (more)