This Land Is Mine (film)

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This Land Is Mine
This-Land-Is-Mine-1943-small.jpg
Directed by Jean Renoir
Produced by Dudley Nichols
Screenplay by Dudley Nichols
Jean Renoir
Starring Charles Laughton
Maureen O'Hara
George Sanders
Music by Lothar Perl
Friedrich Silcher
Cinematography Frank Redman
Edited by Frederic Knudtson
Production
company
Jean-Renoir-Dudly Nichols Productions
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • May 7, 1943 (1943-05-07)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.4 million (US rentals)[1]

This Land Is Mine is a 1943 American drama film directed by Jean Renoir and starring Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara and George Sanders.[2] The film is set in the midst of World War II, in an unspecified country in German-occupied Europe that is clearly France. Laughton plays Albert Lory, a cowardly school teacher in a town "somewhere in Europe" (according to the film's opening title card) who is drawn into advocating resistance through his love of his country and of his fellow teacher Louise Martin, portrayed by O'Hara.

The film is one of the more acclaimed of the propaganda-tinged war films of the era. It won the 1944 Academy Award for Best Sound Recording (Stephen Dunn).[3] Having opened simultaneously in 72 theaters, the film set a record for gross receipts on an opening day upon its May 7, 1943 release.

Plot[edit]

Albert is an unmarried schoolmaster living with his dominating mother and secretly in love with his neighbour and fellow teacher Louise. Widely regarded as ineffectual, he embarrasses everybody by his panic during an Allied air raid. Louise is however engaged to George, the head of the raillway yard, who like many in the town believes that collaboration with the German occupation is the only logical course.

Her brother Paul, who works in the yard, is an active resister and, trying to kill the German commandant Major von Keller, instead kills two German soldiers. After turning a blind eye to previous acts of resistance in the hope of preserving good relations, von Keller must now act and takes ten hostages, saying they will be shot in a week if the guilty person is not found. Albert's mother, jealous of Louise, tells George that it was Paul. George tells von Keller and then, in a crisis of conscience, shoots himself. Albert bursts in a minute later, furious at discovering his mother's treachery, and is found with corpse and gun.

Regarding it as a matter for the civilian courts, the Germans expect Albert to be condemned. When in his defence he starts an impassioned plea for resistance, the prosecutor requests an adjournment. That night von Keller comes to his cell and offers a deal: if he will keep quiet next day, new forged evidence will acquit him. To emphasise the point, in the morning the ten hostages are shot beneath his window. Back in court, Albert is all the more eloquent in the cause of liberty and the jurors proclaim him innocent. Freed and back in his schoolroom, with a proud Louise by his side, he is reading to the boys the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen when German soldiers come to take him away.[4]

Cast[edit]

Themes[edit]

Though the prime purpose of the film is propaganda, to strengthen Allied resolve in the fight against Nazism, critics at the time and since have noted that Nichols and Renoir adopt a distinctively nuanced approach. The Germans, with von Keller an eloquent advocate of the advantages for Europe of Nazi rule, are not shown as mere brutes. Nor are the French, apart from the few mental or physical resisters, shown as heroes battling tyranny. Instead, some readings suggest that, as in Renoir's previous films La Grande Illusion and La Règle du Jeu, class may be more significant than race or nationality. For example, James Morrison[5] cites how the film blames the bourgeoisie, a few left-wing intellectuals excepted, for letting Hitler into power in 1933, for surrendering France in 1940 and for collaborating, actively or passively, since.

This stance was confirmed by Renoir shortly after the film came out when, in a speech, he asserted that his recent films breathed this breath of anti-Fascism and were rooted in the experience of the Popular Front of 1936, which was a magnificent exposition of human brotherhood.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
  2. ^ "This Land Is Mine". BFI. 
  3. ^ "The 16th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  4. ^ Reel Men at War: Masculinity and the American War Film. Ralph Donald, Karen MacDonald. Scarecrow Press, 2011. P 247
  5. ^ Morrison, James (1996), "Representing Nationality in "This Land Is Mine"", MLN 111 (5), Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 954–75, JSTOR 3251254 
  6. ^ Faulkner, Christopher (1996), "Jean Renoir Addresses the League of American Writers", Film History 8 (1), Indiana University Press, pp. 64–71, JSTOR 3815216 

External links[edit]