Friday, December 18, 2009

The Prisoner (1955)

This review is yet another for the Korrektiv's 52 Movies for the Year of the Priest. I have yet to receive the original movie I offered to review, The Massacre in Rome, both attempts resulting in damaged DVDs. We'll see if number three proves to be more successful.

The Prisoner takes place in a nameless totalitarian country following World War II. Alec Guinness plays a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, much beloved by the people of his flock. He is arrested in suspicion of aiding the resistance movement. The claim is not without merit, given that the Cardinal was formerly involved in the resistance against the Nazis. However, the captors have no proof and must rely on manipulation and psychological stress to coerce the Cardinal into saying something truly damning, even going so far as to splice together his statements over numerous interrogations to give the impression that he has indeed admitted to crimes against the state.

Guinness plays the role well, showing the pious cardinal coming under increasing strain, admitting to flaws he perhaps doesn’t see in the clearest light, and straining to maintain his sanity in the face of solitary confinement and other psychological pressures. His portrayal is realistic, and while the character is a priest and cardinal, you get a sense that the story could almost apply to any Christian’s struggle against sin and toward greater humility. While this is a movie about a priest, it’s almost difficult to classify it as a priest movie as that element is almost beside the point. Nonetheless, dramatic development engaged me, and I found myself able to understand and empathize with the cardinal’s increasing challenge. The script seems well suited for screen or stage, but watching Guinness in this role definitely satisfies.

Overall grade: A+
Priest factor: B+
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