This is perhaps not a great movie; but as many viewers have attested over the years, it is a very memorable attempt at entertainment. The context of this dramatic film is WWII. People do strange things in wartime, I suggest; but once one accepts the physical presence of a fine orchestra led by a pompous but talented man in harm's way, where he can be coveted, captured and coerced by a civilized Nazi officer and menaced by an SS type, everything else falls into place. The other elements in the plot about an orchestra leader "not playing, for time" to save the lives of his orchestra's members and two US soldiers who have been caught in the same zone with no escape are these: a traitor in the orchestra; a relationship between the leader and a cellist; his relations with her husband, his concertmaster, the SS officer's desire to exterminate them, and the desire of the Nazi captor to have them play something just for him in the midst of wartime--these are unusual attributes for a 'war film, I assert. Those who missed the main point of the film, that the ethics of emergencies are different than those of normative times, thus missed why the movie was made. There are examples, in history such as "Playing For Time": for instance, of musicians and Jewish ones and females being kept alive to play for Nazi officers; the clever part here is that writers James Lee and Joel Oliansky 'fictionalized' the idea by providing interesting additions to the basic situation, which are: the aforementioned affair, the danger that brings out the characters more strongly, the need NOT to play, and the additional element of a traitor in their midst, the two US types and the often-used but effective distinction between civilized Germans serving Hitler's Nazi war'machine' and SS types enjoying their unlimited power to do harm to anyone they single out during that war. The change in the leader's character during the film is that he must remain true to himself and also prioritize what he does for the good of the group, no easy task. And the music is wonderful, the atmosphere so good even naysayers have remarked on it. As to the acting, it is far better than the mumbling and often ludicrous submediocrity that has characterized Hollywood unprofessionalism since 1973. The film was directed by Ralph Nelson. The good cast included Charlton Heston as the monomaniacal maestro, Maximilian Schell and Anton Diffrimf as the German contestants for the lives of the orchestra's members, Leslie Nielse and Kathryn hays as the other members of the love triangle, plus Neva Patterson, Cyril Delevanti, Gregory Morton, Parley Baer, Ed Peck, Peter Masterson, Curt Lowens and many more. Original music for the film was composed by Bronislau Kaper; cinematography was done by Russell Metty. Art direction was done by Carl Anderson and Alexander Golitzen, set decoration by John McCarthy Jr. and George Milo with costumes by Burton Miller The film is well-=aced, the dialogue above average, many scenes well-thought out; and the music alone is worth the price of admission. Anyone who does not enjoy this film and believe in its essential logic is perhaps an opponent of realistic behavior, actions that consist of dealing with the unusual sometimes, and with something other than rock-and-roll level cardboard types characterized by what is wrong with them and not by anything higher. Worth seeing more than once.
Drama / Music / War
Drama / Music / War
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During a December 1944 German offensive in Belgium, a USO symphonic orchestra entertaining the front-line American troops is captured by the Germans. Initially, the Germans want to execute them, in accordance with orders received from Berlin. However, the orchestra leader, world-famous conductor Lionel Evans, persuades the Germans to spare their lives, arguing that his orchestra members are just civilian non combatants. Taken to the HQ of a German tank division, Lionel Evans and his orchestra members meet the German commanding officer, General Schiller, an avid music lover. General Schiller has respect for the musicians and he's hesitating about the standing order of executing all prisoners. However, the general's second-in-command, Colonel Arndt, is a blood-thirsty, by-the-book, type of fanatical officer who wants the prisoners shot. The general requests that Evans and his orchestra perform one more time, for him personally. Evans, out of pride and patriotism, refuses. But some members of his orchestra feel that performing for the General would keep them alive. A battle of wills between the General and conductor Evans ensues. The prisoners are kept in a castle's chapel, near the division's HQ. In the following days, the prisoners are fed and are allowed to practice their music in the chapel. When an orchestra member panics and tries to run, the German guards kill him. This prompts Evans to agree to perform one last concert for the German general and his officers. In the meantime, 2 American soldiers who had hid among the musicians before their capture, continue to pretend to be musicians, despite suspicions from the part of Colonel Arndt. Evans secretly agrees to allow the 2 soldiers to escape and seek help from the nearest Allied troops. During the escape attempt, one soldier is caught and shot. The other, is found dead in a field by the Belgian resistance. As the day of the concert approaches, one Belgian resistance member, posing as a local peasant, contacts Evans to tell him that an upcoming resistance attack will try to free the orchestra. The resistance attack would coincide with the concert for the Germans. General Schiller's tank division receives fuel and orders to join the offensive. Schiller orders his division out, while he remains behind for the concert. However, Colonel Arndt and a few men also remain behind to dig a mass grave in the castle's courtyard and to prepare the execution, after the concert. Tension builds up as the orchestra members, dressed in their official concert attire, file past the mass grave, to the chapel where the concert is to be performed. Conductor Evans wonders whether General Schiller will really have them executed or freed. Evans also wonders if the Belgian resistance attack will come in time to save them.
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