The Children’s hour by William Wyler with Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner

August 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

I wonder why people do not speak about this black and white film as it deserves. I guess this is because it is considered not so fashionable and funny as many as other films with Audrey Hepburn are, such as How to steal a million or Sabrina. That’s a pity because this film is a actual masterpiece. It faces reality of love and fear back in 1961. I guess it was hard for people who were in love with people of the same sex. This film conveys that matter in an in-depth way.

Scene is almost always indoor. It takes place in a feminine boarding school where one of the students mad at teachers gossips about the fact that they are lesbians and spreads this word. Immediately reputation of teachers and school are ruined. Students leave and school closes. This case arrives in court and Karen – Audrey Hepburn looses her boyfriend who disappears after realizing that he does not trust her.

When things are fallen apart, Martha-Shirley MacLaine confesses her love for Karen-Audrey Hepburn. This confessions opens eyes of spectators not only towards maliciousness of people but also to intolerance for people of the same sex who love each other. A tender feeling of a co-worker becomes the reason for the failure of many lives. How is this possible? How can people transform something good and constructive as love is in a sound tragedy? This film has no merci towards bad people who live chatting on the back of the others because this behavior can be fatal and disastrous.

Based on a true story, written for theatre, this pièce became a film in 1961. And it is astonishing. It is a brave film that explains how people can even kill someone just whispering. The upfront approach prevents people who are seeing this film to avoid reality.

As for aesthetic, classical style gives this film even more strength psychologically speaking. We are used to watch film which are shot with a frenetic camera as if video could express more sympathy for what happens, like Lars Von Trier taught. In this case friction between what spectator expects to see and what actually happens is so strong that result is people are obliged to reflect a lot about what they have just seen.  And that’s a great goal even if director could not forecast this while he was shooting it. One says to himself “hey, this is a classical film, it can not happen something strong which can create scandal, can it?”. When the unpredictable happens, people are shocked. And this is good for giving people the opportunity to think and rethink about this film.

Nowadays cinema has lost the power of making people think. Quality films are not produced or distributed apart from the ones of the festivals for a niche. Good news is that we can find many gorgeous films like this one on the Internet. Old films that can help people to face reality and think about what is good and what is not good. It is amazing to see stars like Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine involved in such a topic. I think in a way they have done a lot for this issue playing this film. Thank you both!

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