Director: Noël Coward and David Lean (action scenes)
Writer: Noël Coward
Cinematographer: Ronald Neame
by Tory Maddox
Inspired by the real life event events of the HMS Torrin that was sunk by German Bombers during the Battle of Crete in 1941, this British propaganda film involves flashbacks of the various crew members as they’re training and living their civilian lives, before getting recruited and leading up to the event. Made during 1942, the film was an attempt to help relieve public opinion as England’s war against Germany was picking up steam.
It’s a fairly good film, assisted by David Lean who was brought in as Noel Coward fell in over his head with the action scenes during production . We don’t have much of the David Lean feel during the film, which is difficult to describe, though I suppose I’d have to check out Bridge Over the River Kuai to provide a more detailed breakdown. The film is relatively straightforward, clearly propagandistic than anything else.
To watch most films made during, or close to a war, and how they’re essentially championing the cause is always fascinating, especially as later films are able to revisit those same events with a more critical eye toward the war-itself or the effects thereof. The sinking of the HMS Torrin was a tragedy that was only the tip of what would claim millions of lives. We see that the men want nothing more than to maintain their lives - to get married, raise children, find a decent job and provide for their families.
Yet, for all we learn about these men, and as tragic as many of their fates were, there was something that fell short, as though Coward never allowed us to actually feel what it’d be like to experience such a tragedy. I didn’t get a sense of the terror or horror of the situation, or the sense of hopelessness that they must have been feeling. I understand such sentiments aren’t necessarily desired in a propaganda film. Still, it was a little too clean. Perhaps that’s why the Admiralty of England’s Navy referred to the film as “In Which We Sunk.”
BELOW: Slim pickings with supplements, so here's a trailer
Thoughts on films, old and new
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