Sunday, 10 February 2013

Mrs. Miniver (1942)



The story is based off a fictional English housewife created in 1937 for newspaper columns named Mrs. Kay Miniver.



Living a very comfortable life in the outskirts of London with her well-to-do family (you can tell they are well off because their house has a name: “Starlings”), Miniver’s life is thrown into turmoil by the start of the Second World War. Her oldest son, Vin, quickly joins the Royal Air Force and becomes one of the Few; the pilots who held off the German Blitz during the Battle of Britain at horrific personal expense. Her husband Clem is called in the middle of the night to participate in the Dunkirk evacuation, that miraculous operation wherein over 300,000 trapped British and French soldiers were rescued from the shores of France from the rapidly advancing German Army. Later that morning, Miniver is threatened by a downed German pilot who holds her at gunpoint.   And finally, Miniver’s entire family huddles in a shelter as they are very nearly killed by Nazi bombs.



It would be one thing if the film focused solely on the character of Mrs. Miniver. But Wyler wisely positioned Mrs. Miniver within a much larger cross-section of British society. We meet characters such as the Miniver’s live-in housemaid Gladys who tearfully sees her husband off to the front lines. There’s Lady Beldon, a local aristocrat, and her daughter Carol who falls in love with Vin and eventually becomes his wife. Lady Beldon is locked in an epic struggle with kindly stationmaster Mr. Ballard whose only offense was to dare to enter a rose (which he named the “Mrs. Miniver”) into a local flower competition which she has perennially won for the last several years. And finally there is the local vicar (played by Henry Wilcoxon) who unites the entire community in the final scene with a heart-breakingly powerful sermon in the ruins of his bombed-out church.

Mrs. Miniver is just one of the numerous Best Picture winners to be largely forgotten. But it remains a triumphant work of art for those who are willing to look for it. For although it was made explicitly for World War Two audiences, its heart, its soul, its message is one that will resound for ages. xx

No comments:

Post a Comment