A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)

[wikipedia]

Lucía and Jun-Dai at the BFI South Bank (NTF1) at 20:30 on 2 February 2013.

Jun-Dai:
A fairly dark and brooding film. The camera seems to be in love with the faces of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. The film’s greatest failing is surely the way in which Angela Vickers falls for George Eastman—we are never given any sense for what she sees in him since he is so moody and brooding so much of the time. It’s easy enough to see what initially intrigues her—the scene in the billiard room where she becomes fascinated by his mysterious, private, and opaque personality, but it’s hard to see how their relationship develops from there, and the film glosses over it entirely.

There are a lot of nice touches in the film—the way the Vickers name is always visible from George’s bedroom window, the scene where George seduces Alice Tripp with the radio. The metaphor of the boat is interesting: Alice pointing out that she would never be in the same boat as an Eastman, George trying to prove her wrong, Alice seeing George sharing a speedboat with Angela in the newspaper, George again in the boat with Alice, and then finally in the courtroom where George is in the boat by himself. There is a strong parallel: Alice knows better than to see George, but she can’t resist his insistent charms. Likewise, George knows better than to see Angela, but he also can’t resist her persistent charms (though George, being obsessed, requires much less persuasion. Also, it’s much less clear that Angela should have known better, whereas we know that George should have known better from the very start). Both Angela and George are in some sense being rebellious in their seduction. Angela, with some hesitation, seems willing to abandon her world of comfort for George, but George essentially proves he is not willing to abandon his newfound place in the sun for Alice. Alice’s place in the sun is to be with George, and having found an escape from her loneliness, Alice will not let it go for anything. It’s a bit unclear how much George’s place in the sun is Angela herself and how much it is the lifestyle that she brings him into.

Probably my favourite moment of the film is the scene wherein George’s uncle Charles spots George on the assembly line floor and decides to promote him. We can see that Alice is present for the entire conversation, and that in a single moment all of George’s protestations that he is no different from the rest of the workers are invalidated. To make the point more solidly, it is made clear that Charles has never noticed George’s attempt to prove himself (his report on production improvements) and is simply promoting him out of nepotism and an assumption of competence. Despite the unsubtle way in which this narrative point is set up, there is a lot of subtlety in the way that Alice never reveals any emotion during this scene nor mentions it later. We are left to wonder what she was thinking during the conversation, as well as to wonder how much that moment contributes towards her attitude later.

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