The Divided Heart (1954)
"this is what we're born for, to love and to suffer"
|The German occupation of Yugoslavia|
The Divided Heart is proof that you need bombs and explosions to make a great war film. You don't even need to set it in wartime. Because, whatever way you look at it, The Divided Heart is a brilliant film about war and its aftermath. It's also another splendid example of Ealing Studios defying all those critics who say "they just made twee British comedies."
Directed by Charles Chrichton, who was better known for his comedies, it tells the story of Toni (played by Martin Keller in flashbacks and by Michel Ray in the main scenes) ...
The film was based on a true story published in Life Magazine in 1952 and, with a voice over telling parts of the story, it has an almost documentary feel. Though there is a genuine emotional pull between the two mothers ("the blood mother versus the bread mother") ...
|Cornell Borchers as the adoptive mother|
|Yvonne Mitchell as the real mother|
|Geoffrey Keen and Yvonne Mitchell arrive at court|
This cold emotionless feel makes the film a perfect - yet converse - companion to 'Germany Year Zero': whilst the latter shows the chaos within Germany as families struggle to survive in the ruins of Berlin, The Divided Heart shows the re-imposition of order. Yet both allow the viewer to understand that the effect of war lasts long after the bullets stop flying. This is summed up by Toni's adoptive father, not long since returned from a Russian prisoner of war camp:
"When is this war going to end?"
|Eddie Byrne & Alexander Knox as members of the court's judging panel|
|Alexander Knox & Liam Redmond as members of the court's judging panel|
|Alec McCowen as a journalist covering the case|
|Geoffrey Keen as the UN representative|
|Ferdy Mayne as the lawyer representing Toni's parents (Armin Dahlen & Cornell Borchers)|
|Theodore Bikel as Toni's real father|
|Film Director John Schlesinger as a train guard|
A wonderful film that should be on anyone's list of great war films:
Available from Network DVD in Volume 10 of the Ealing Studios Rarities Collection which also features the splendid comedy Saloon Bar.
This poster is currently available from Greg Edwards (and long-established and reputable film memorabilia dealer):