The Mortal Storm (1940)
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a really classic James Stewart film, which are always a pleasure to view. And The Mortal Storm (1940) is yet another and a rare war film for the great actor who turned against the genre after seeing his fair share when he enlisted during WWII.
Focusing on the Freya Roth (Margaret Sullavan) who struggles to stay with her indoctrinated fiance who has become a member of the local branch. Which soon tears them both a part and into the arms of an old and trusted friend Martin Breitner (James Stewart) who himself wants to be a free-thinker in this now oppressive country.
It takes the father figure of the Roth family Professor Roth (Frank Morgan) to be taken away for having scientific theories that go against the new belief system. The remaining family decides like many others before and at the start of the regime.
When things don’t go to plan for Freya she has to return home where she finds her friends and growing love interest Martin who had already seen one other friend to the safety of Austria from the Alps. The Nazis then follow in reluctant pursuit led by former lover Fritz Marberg (Robert Young). A strong vehicle to explore the changing nature of a large European power beyond all recognition. It acts as a cautionary tale, as America looks on as a war rages on in its infancy to last for 5 more years. I’m reminded of All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) that sees regular people caught up in the propaganda and ideas that sweep a group of young men into a world of war, death and destruction. We don’t see that here, the idea of warfare is only touched on briefly, seeing it in another form, fear of free thinking as radical ideas win through a nation that was once crippled by another war and depression. Each time innocent people are caught up circumstances that are far beyond anyone’s real control.
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