Mandy (Alexander Mackendrick, 1952)

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Mandy (Alexander Mackendrick, 1952)

#1 Post by Sloper » Sat Nov 01, 2008 7:06 am

The other night I showed this astonishing film to a few friends, who sadly found it ‘a bit slow’, so I’m eager to find out whether it has any fans around here…

Until very recently I knew it only by reputation and, though I wanted to see it, I half expected it to be a rather earnest and dull ‘issue’ film – one of those things that was considered fresh and daring at the time, but has dated badly. Then again, I liked Mackendrick’s Ealing comedies, and Sweet Smell of Success is a long-time favourite, so I was intrigued to see what such a great director would make of this subject.

The plot is nothing very special or original – a family struggles to do what is right for their deaf child – although I was impressed by the realism with which the parents’ flawed relationship is depicted. I’m not sure I’ve seen another film from this period which captures so well the intensity of an argument between two people in love, especially that veiled intensity you get when the argument is taking place in front of a child.

Mandy’s education (or the beginning of it) at a special school is also shown in fascinating detail, and with a sensitivity that rarely spills over into melodrama or sentimentality. Jack Hawkins, who plays the school’s crusty but benign headmaster, turns in one of his best performances, and is helped by a script that gives his character some depth. The child star, Mandy Miller, is of course the real heart of the film. Even the most ‘sensational’ child performances are often very self-conscious and stilted, but Miller keeps it simple, doesn’t overact, and remains utterly believable throughout.

Technically the film is also very impressive, with consistently inventive use of lighting, camera moves, editing, and (especially) sound to complement the story being told. There is a particularly brilliant scene, in which Mandy learns to pronounce her first letter, where a combination of silence and abrupt noise is used to convey her experience.

Obviously this is a very earnest film, intended to ‘raise awareness’ about the deaf, about deaf schools, and so on. Really, however, it’s simply a film about education, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. It gives equal weight to the points of view of teachers, children, and parents, and although money clearly isn’t an issue for Mandy’s parents, this film explores the joys and pains of education in ways that anyone could identify with. It’s an intelligent, balanced and, most of all, very moving film, which after three viewings can still put a few lumps in my throat.

I can't find any mention of it on this board, but I'm guessing at least a few people here have seen it...?

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Re: Mandy (Alexander Mackendrick, 1952)

#2 Post by Person » Mon Nov 03, 2008 9:52 pm

It's a moving, dignified story, beautifully directed by a master craftsman and it had a marked effect on a whole generation of viewers. Watch it one and all, then watch Herzog's extraordinary, Land of Silence and Darkness.

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Re: Mandy (Alexander Mackendrick, 1952)

#3 Post by kaujot » Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:29 am

Also check Mackendrick's hilarious Whisky Galore!. Very, very funny film.

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