Top critical review
15 people found this helpful
Fictional social manipulation version of the life of Chopin
on 16 October 2013
The life of Classical Composer Chopin is celebrated here in this vintage Hollywood film made during World War Two.
It is an entertaining film and its strongest point is the atmosphere, energy and power of Chopin, his music and the time he lived in.
For Classical music fans this film does serve as a connection to the genius of Chopin.
However the film has many flaws. These flaws can be over looked and the film can be enjoyable anyway. But it is important to point out these flaws so that you know what to expect.
The biggest flaw is that the script pays little attention to historical fact. Secondly the acting is not great and to be honest over laboured. Thirdly this film served well in the time it was made as a vehicle of War time propaganda and social manipulation. And fourth the soundtrack performance on piano is heavy handed in an attempt to create strong drama. The performer bangs down heavy on the keyboard throughout all of the pieces of Chopin's music.
As I say the history is wrong. Here we have a fictional version where the main character appears to be the teacher of Chopin Joseph Elsner who appears throughout the film and the life of the Composers later years. Even though in reality this was not the case since Joseph Elsner was more strongly associated as teacher to Chopin in his younger years. However the character serves well in fictional narrative to maintain a link between Chopin and his native Poland. In the script Elsner follows Chopin across Europe to remind him not to waste his genius gift and eventually engage in a gruelling concert tour that despite exhausting the constantly ill composers health will all be worth it in order to raise money to help the people of his native Poland.
Clearly this is where the War time propaganda comes in. The script shows us that Chopin is forced to leave Poland because his home in Poland was under Russian Rule. He grasps Polish soil and pledges his patriotism
(In similar lesson Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of World War two)
However according to official history the script was fiction since Chopin chose to leave Poland before the "The November Uprising 1830-31.to settle in Paris in September 1831. He also had visited many other countries before Paris and met other famous composers of the time. He had been composing well before he took a course of lessons with Joseph Elsner and was always suffering with his health. Further, although he settled in Paris it should be remembered that his father was from France too and there were strong links and sympathies for Poland in Paris.
The film script sticks loosely to fact when Chopin meets George Sand and has a ten year relationship with her in which they visit Mallorca where the bad winter affects his health badly and later they stay at Sand's estate at Nohant. Further the break up of the relationship.
The script paints Sand as a controlling evil like manipulator over Chopin who deprives the world of Chopin's genius. Sand is oppressive and shows no compassion. Chopin is rescued by Elsner. (not true) who insists that any sacrifice including Chopin's health is worth the world knowing his genius and the opportunity to help the people of Poland in a notion of patriotic duty.
The usual social manipulation story for War time propaganda gives us the message that all sacrifices were or are worth it to free people from controlling forces such as the Russian Rule over Poland at that time and the likes of Sand
It is obvious that helping Poland and standing against the oppression of the Nazis is a comparison that was engineered to gain popularity for the public of 1944/45 when the film was made and shown.
Bending the truth has always been a structure for many Hollywood films and this is a typical example. But there is much to enjoy here anyway.
The picture is not bad for a colour film of the early 1940s and the sound is reasonable.