The Heart of the Matter (film)
|The Heart of the Matter|
|Directed by||George More O'Ferrall|
|Produced by||Ian Dalrymple|
|Written by||Lesley Storm
Graham Greene (novel)
|Distributed by||British Lion Films|
|Box office||£123,479 (UK)|
The Heart of the Matter is a 1953 British film based on the book of the same name by Graham Greene. It was directed by George More O'Ferrall for London Films. It was entered into the 1953 Cannes Film Festival.
Cast and production
Trevor Howard plays Scobie, a senior policeman in Sierra Leone. He is unhappily married to Louise, played by Elizabeth Allan. While she is away, he begins a love affair with Helen, played by Maria Schell. However, Scobie's Catholic faith leaves him tormented with guilt. The film also features Denholm Elliott, Peter Finch, Gérard Oury, George Coulouris and Michael Hordern.
It contains no original score, but instead features indigenous music from Sierra Leone in West Africa, where location filming took place. The interiors were filmed at Shepperton Studios in London. The black and white cinematography was by Jack Hildyard.
Scobie, deputy head of the Sierra Leone police in Freetown during the Second World War, is unhappily married to fellow-Catholic Louise and both mourn their only daughter. On a search of a visiting ship, the neutral vessel Esperança, he finds an envelope addressed to Germany. When he confiscates it, the captain begs him to do nothing because the letter is to his daughter. Feeling pity, Scobie burns it. His wife keeps begging him to let her go to South Africa but they cannot afford the fare. Eventually he accepts a loan from Yusef, a smuggler, to send her away by sea.
Called up country because a local official is in trouble, he finds the man has committed suicide because of his debts to smugglers. While he is there, survivors of a ship torpedoed by the Germans are brought ashore and one he notices is Helen, a very young widow who reminds him of his dead daughter. Back in Freetown he finds she has been given a hut near his house and after he pays her a visit the two start an affair. When he learns that Louise is coming back on the next voyage of the Esperança, he writes Helen a note. It never reaches her, because it is intercepted by a servant in Yusef's pay.
Yusef then tells Scobie that he must give a packet of contraband diamonds to the captain of the Esperança or face ruin. Complying, he returns home with Louise and at a party to welcome her Helen appears, unaware that Scobie is unable to continue their affair. Louise then forces Scobie to attend mass and take communion, which damns him because he had not confessed his sins of adultery and corruption. Unable to keep the woman he loves and liable to lose his job at any moment, he commits the final unforgivable sin of suicide by single-handedly tackling gangsters at night.
Differences between film and book
The main difference between the film and the book is in the ending, which is almost equally bleak, but reversed from Greene's original story. In the book, Scobie's servant is killed (apparently an act of revenge by Yusef, here played by Gérard Oury). Scobie commits suicide. In the film, Scobie intends to kill himself, but is interrupted by a fight breaking out. He intervenes and is shot. The servant (John Akar) does not die, but instead Scobie dies in his servant's arms.
- Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p501
- "Festival de Cannes: The Heart of the Matter". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
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