Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Young Lions (1958): review: 10/10

This is a complex film depicting the parallel careers of two pairs of soldiers. the first a German, occasionally troubled by his conscience, then another German officer who seemingly lacks an internal life at all, and who is primarily a cypher for German millitary will.

The second pair are Americans, one an entertainer, well built, though cowardly, who befriends and learns from the the second, a scrawny, nervous Jewish American conscript from New York. This second conscript is bullied by his unit, but he confrots his tormentors, going on to prove himself to be courageous, large spirited individual.

There are subplots involving women: while the callous German has a cold-hearted blonde wife, the Americans have supportive partners. The partner of the Jewish is of a old protestant family, and initially the father of the family is dubious about his daughter's consort, even though he is a loyal and loving companion. By contrast, the relationship of the entertainer is initially marked by  the entertainer's selfishness, self-pity and short-sightedness. These qualities which are overcome by the supportive criticisms of his partner.

The film ends, very effectively, with the liberation of a concentration camp.

The film succeeds in avoiding too an overt message- though one could argue that it makes clear  statements about unselfishness, pride and the need for courage and patriotism to be allied to conscience- but is exciting and psychologically involving. The acting is universally superb.

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