26 JANUARY 1945, Page 11


"Since You Went Away." At the Gaumont and Marble Arch Pavilion. Sunday Dinner for a Soldier." At the Tivoli.—" The Rainbow." At the Tatier.

AFTER two and three-quarter hours of Since You Went Away I am more than ever conscious of the virtues of last week's Waterloo Road. Both films seek to diagnose the effects of war-time absence upon the hearts of those left behind. Does absence make them grow fonder? Or do they falter in their loneliness? Or does absence :nake the heart swell and swell until it fairly brims over with every synthetic sentiment, every device that has ever been invented for the marketing of tears in the guise of entertainment? For Since You Went Away is a tear-compeller. Not, be it noted, a tear- ;erker. The technical presentation is so smooth, the photography and editing of such high quality that the film is meticulous in its avoidance of all crudity. It is a Refined Picture which seeks to persuade us with almost hypnotic power (throughout its marathon lengt15 I was never for a moment bored) that when hubby leaves home, even for a few weeks' training, the occasion calls for such a display of domestic emdtion (wle. children, coloured cook, bull-dog

loyally participating) that the sum-total of feeling generated within four walls far exceeds the sufferings of the whole war-torn world as depicted, for example, in the current Wilson.

There are pleasant episodes. Robert Walker, Monty Woolley, Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones occasionally work wonders with the lachrymose script, and Claudette Colbert really does succeed in investing her surroundings with a genuinely forlorn quality (when her husband is missing in the Pacific she is able by a scarcely per- ceptible slackening of her poise to communicate a sense of his absence). Yet I believe the pervading atmosphere of this film is no more true of American life than it is of our own. American film-makers do less than justice to their own cause when they suggest that for our U.S. Allies the war is primarily a sentimental exercise.

Sunday Dinner for a Soldier begins in somewhat the same spirit as Since You Went Away, for here we have a soldierless family almost prostrate at its failure to secure some lonely G.I. to enjoy its humble hospitality. Once you can accept the importance of the occasion, however, the film develops warmth and friendliness. The would-be-hospitable family goes through many of the conventional motions of Hollywood's romantic poor, but the children and the Florida exteriors are so fresh and natural and the family's rejection of material prosperity so endearing that we are won over.

In The Rainbow, a Soviet film about Nazi-occupied Russia, Mark Donskoy has given more thought to the shape and balance of his sequences than we have lately observed in Soviet work. Individual scenes are beautifully composed, and the episodes of torture gain in conviction by having been made with insight as well as feeling. There is a remarkable sequence in which a Nazi soldier plays upon the fears of a group of Soviet children, and another in which the children, wise in these matters before their time, bury their brother beneath the floor of their home. Not until the earth must be stamped down upon him does one of them begin to cry.