sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey: passion)
sovay ([personal profile] sovay) wrote2017-03-10 02:00 am

I shall be back. We shall all be back

It is very satisfying to me to see that the contemporary resistance has noticed Leslie Howard's Pimpernel Smith (1941). The final soliloquy is as good as everyone remembers: haunting, numinous, spoken as prophecy in a year in which the outcome of World War II was far from assured. A thin-faced professor in the shadows of a railway station, unarmed at gunpoint, his eyes glinting like a cat's in the dark. An anti-Nazi picture made by a Jewish man during the Blitz, his quintessential Englishness carefully learned, deeply felt. He would not live to see the winning of the war which his character so confidently predicts: he vanished into history like the last word into a curl of cigarette smoke and stories spiraled up around his disappearance. He left the silver salt ghosts of a life on film, a curious foretelling of his own death in the fight against fascism. He was right.

"May a dead man say a few words to you, General, for your enlightenment? You will never rule the world, because you are doomed. All of you who have demoralized and corrupted a nation are doomed. Tonight you will take the first step along a dark road from which there is no turning back. You will have to go on and on, from one madness to another, leaving behind you a wilderness of misery and hatred, and still you will have to go on—because you will find no horizon, and see no dawn, until at last you are lost and destroyed. You are doomed, captain of murderers, and one day, sooner or later, you will remember my words."

I prefer the original British title, but I agree that the American poster is striking. If it brings more people to the movie even now, it's doing what it's supposed to. That ghost speaking out of the dark still has something to say.


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