One of the years more interesting DVD releases. It seems highly likely that this one was only retrieved from the dusty film archives because it marked the 1949 film debut of Richard Burton, who started his glittering career in this very Welsh grass roots role. He also met his first wife Sybil Williams on the set, a marriage that lasted until Burton's rather well publicised affair with Elizabeth Taylor. It is strange to see the oh so youthful looking Burton bounding across the Welsh fields, long before the ravages of the high life etched their marks onto his world weary face.
The film itself is actually a very refreshing look back to the past. I have never seen this film on the TV in the past. Wales does not have a massive cinematic history, but this film could certainly be seen as an important one in that limited canon of work. With the talented Welsh playwright Emlyn Williams writing, acting and directing in true auteur fashion, it certainly has good Welsh credentials. What a pity Williams was not persuaded to direct again! The story itself is old fashioned in the best sense. Almost Victorian in style with a storyline that echoes the style of George Eliot. Having said this the story of the flooding of a Welsh village also eerily mirrors the real life flooding of the Welsh village of Capel Celyn in the 60's. The film is set in 1892 when a Welsh village is drowned to provide water for Liverpool. The story makes much of the destruction of this Welsh idyll by greedy capitalists, an issue that still causes heartache in poverty stricken South American countries. There is some high melodrama as the tightly knit little community is fractured. Edith Evans plays the humble Welsh matriarch who holds things together. The film comes to an interesting and satisfying finale well worth waiting for.
The film is far from perfect but it has an awful lot going for it. It is certainly well acted by an ensemble cast in which Burton shines brightly. Edith Evans is brilliant as ever and the character actor Hugh Griffith stands out as the minister. Williams has provided a poetic and moving script that makes good use of the rich Welsh language that sounds so good to the ear. I have no Welsh blood that I am aware of I hasten to add! It was a satisfying movie to watch and its genuine old fashioned virtues without any false artfulness won me over. It may have only been revived as a footnote in the history of one great actors career, but it is well worth watching in its own right.