Liliom (1930)

LILIOM (1930)
Article #1368 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-12-2004
Posting Date: 5-11-2005
Directed by Frank Borzage
Featuring Charles Farrell, Rose Hobart, Estelle Taylor

A maid falls in love with a carnival barker.

Fantastic content: Before the movie is over, one of the major characters dies and takes a train to the afterlife.

This is an adaptation of the play that would also serve as the source story for the musical CAROUSEL. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the latter, but I suspect it works a little better in that form, This version didn’t go over well with me at all. Charles Farrell looks the title role well enough, but his voice has a nasal whine to it that is distinctly unpleasant. I was quite unhappy with Rose Hobart’s performance in the role of Julie; she comes across as distant and terminally depressed, and that has a way of undercutting the message that she’s supposed to be getting a lot of joy in her relationship with Liliom. There is a touch of eroticism to some of the scenes at the beginning of the movie, but some of the accompanying dialogue is stilted and clumsy; in fact, that problem permeates the whole movie. Far and away I prefer the sequences involving the arrival of the train of the dead right through the wall of the room where Liliom is dying, (even if it does follow one of the most protracted deathbed speeches this side of an opera), as well as the other scenes in the afterlife. This sequence also has the best line of the movie; when the red train to hell arrives to take Liliom to a land where he will learn a little discipline, the man telling him about the arrival takes a second to point out that the color of the train has “no political significance”. I do find the ending message of the movie to be more than a little offensive; the concept that when you beat the ones you love they will experience them like kisses is a romantic prevarication that only lends itself to being used as a base rationalization by wife and child abusers everywhere.

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