—" ERNTE "
A Film Of True Values
By IRIS CONLAY, Catholic Herald Film Critic.
January is an early month to make safe prognostications about films of the year, but half the fun about making prognostications is to make them early, and make them first. So I bravely start off by recommending Ernte (Academy) as a likely runner to hold the course.
Ernte—in the mother tongue Harvest— is the most restful film I have ever seen. Its effect on an unhappy Londoner, weary of London streets, streaming continuously with January rain, is a tonic as would be a weekend in a warm June countryside.
There is a calm naturalness about this film of people who live isolated existences more tuned to the moods of the steady seasons than to those of shifting individuals. which is a relief after Hollywood's wild agitation, and after the Surrealists' furtive introspection.
Paula Wcssely plays the lead with her husband Attila Horbiger, and the scene is set in an agricultural Hungarian district where sun shines, grain is sown, grows, and to sell even the five small acres that remained. It was Julika—the peasant daughter of the peasant coachman—who persuaded him to keep them and work for the gaining hack of the whole estate.
Alone together. and for many years, these two worked in their few fields. Each year saw another field added to the original ones. But the villagers gossiped about this simple relationship. Not believing in the possibilities of its simplicity they cut poor Julika out of all their activities and suspected her.
Complications were caused by a visiting young woman from sophisticated circles of Vienna. An insult can be more exciting than encouragement and Attila forgot his work and neglected his ambitions for her. But the mood passed and Julika had learnt to wait and wait . . .
Hers is the superb part of the rude peasant, whose feelings are infinitely finer than those of the smooth mannered Viennese Grit von Hellmers. With graceful awkwardness Paula Wessely moves through the picture, never forgetting that she is the peasant but never letting crudity interpret a character of extreme sensibility. Not because she helps herself I to the picture does one notice so little of any one else's performance in Ernte, but her depth of colour dwarfs every other member of the cast into a pastel insignificance.
In direct contrast to the elemental problems of man's struggle with the soil and the gradual development of mutual admiration into a deeply satisfying love, stands the unreal and superficially near-hysteria study which is Sweet Aloes. Perhaps it is a little unfair to criticise Sweet Aloes on the grounds of a superficial psychology, as it is entertainment that counts more than reality. But even the entertainment value of Roland Young's heart-of-gold clowning, and the general present ability of Kay Francis's appearances cannot compensate for such a theme.
If Sweet Aloes were a nice " weepsy " story about a girl whose baby was taken from her and brought up in a comfortable home where it never even knew its real mother, that would be understandable. But the real falseness of this unfortunate story is the child's neurotic mother, now married to a jolly, unsuspecting. hulking American, who is apparently miraculously cured by this malaise by a mere sight of her child sleeping. In spite of the fact that she still leaves the child's identity unacknowledged to her husband, she is able, by an instantaneous switch-over, to become for evermore the cheery little wife that American hubby so desires.
Poor Kay Francis, when will she get a better break!