The Inn of the Sixth Happiness Reviews
The film is centred on Ingrid Bergman's performance and it is an excellent one at that. Filled with massive locations & scenery but a beautiful personal story of women helping others.
I found this film very inspiring & her story is an incredible one & amazingly all true. This is a must see classic & powerful story about others. Keep an eye out for the prison riot scene very stirring.
That being said the movie does have its faults. The characters seem to be a very mixed bag. You have an English lady, played by a Swede. A German, playing a Eurasian officer. And a Chinese Mandarin played by an English gent. I don't think that this was the most credible cast that Mark Robson (Director) could have put together. I think more time should have been spent sourcing a more accurate cast for a film that puts such importance on nationality. There is no doubting Ingrid Bergman's ability, she doesn't give her best performance but her acting is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. For her role, I guess I would have been more inclined to look at Vivian Lee, Deborah Kerr or Googie Withers. Again, not taking anything away from Ingrid Bergman, she is a first rate actress but I do feel it was clear on many occasions that Gladys should have been played by an English actress. I feel the same way about Curd Jürgens. Great actor, but why appoint a German to play a Eurasian? Moving on to Robert Donat, I am definitely a fan. He is yet another great actor. His abilities as displayed in Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Citadel and The 39 Steps are brilliant. But to play a Chinese Mandarin was a step too far, it just wasn't believable. For the legend that is Robert Donat, this should not have been his final film (he died the same year it was released aged 53).
I think Robson was mainly concerned with what was easily available and what he had access to at the time he made The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness. This mentality is seen in his use of the mountains of North Wales rather than China. However, I must add that on this occasion the location was suitable and a success. I thought that they were in China when I watched the movie as I am sure nearly everyone else did. Be it Welsh or Chinese mountains, the cinematography is very good. The height, expanse and texture are all impressively conveyed to the viewer. I would say that out of the whole film the mountain scenes are the most moving and touching part. The stunning scene where Gladys comes over the peaks followed by 100 singing children is both stirring and heartrending. It gives me goosebumps. You really do fill with compassion and this carries through to the end of the film. I feel this is a great visual metaphor for Gladys' life as a whole.
The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness is a good movie and as I have said, tells a worthwhile story. It teaches us about courage and doing the right thing. When Gladys is outside the prison I particularly like the line "Yes, I am afraid. Open the gate". Unfortunately due to a few errors of judgement, it misses out on being the great classic I feel it should have been. One major issue is the length of the movie. Running 158 minutes was just too long considering what filled that time. I feel it could have been cut down to at least 110 minutes. The final product would have been a sharper, more exciting and polished film. I feel that the decision to add in a fictional love interest was foolish. I understand that Robson was trying to increase the drama and warmth of the story with this and to add a new dimension by having a trio of main characters. But I feel that with the depth to Gladys' story and the amount the movie had already committed to covering, an additional side story was not required. Besides, the relationships between the existing characters were enough to pull at the heart strings.
Over the last few years America has gone mad on remaking old classics. They say they are bringing movies of yesteryear to a new audience. I would argue that old classics cannot be bettered and should not be touched. And surely, by bringing the latest version to the youth of today rather than bringing it to a new audience, you are voiding the original for them. Why The Day The Earth Stood Still, The Wicker Man, War Of The Worlds, The Italian Job, King Kong, Planet of the Apes, The Omen, Clash of the Titans, The Pink Panther, Get Carter and Psycho were ever even considered for a remake is beyond me. However, I can see why someone may consider giving the The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness a makeover and retelling the story of Gladys Aylward. I for one, would be very interested to see what could be done in a modern production.
To cut a long story short, this film is an ideal sunday afternoon lazy day watch. The story itself is very endearing and inspiring, benefits enormously from the fact it is based on actual fact. Ingrid Bergman plays her part rather well, though her upper class english accent was contested by Gladys Aylward pride of being cockney! Though her acting is completly sympathetic to the movie and its a role that needed to work for this film. However, I feel the casting could have been better for the chinese and male roles, it felt that it was a tad out of place to put Robert Donat as an emperor "Mandarin". It seemed to make the film more dated than it should have been.
What impressed me most was the fact it was film in WALES!! You would never of guessed, even the chinese children were scousers haha! I think you look at the cinematography and the general direction for the film, it feels as if it could have been something like from Aguirre: Wrath of God or Fitzcarraldo, which are both my favourite films. It really has to be noted that this really improved the film for me, when I noticed just how much effort must have been put into this film.
One other minor problem is the music, its not too bad but for some reason the motif sounds like the start of the classic song "Blue Moon", its rather offputing since this motif is played every 15 mins!
I think though, this is a well constructed film that though feels a bit aged, it is a great story to tell and also to read up upon. Watch this and you won't regret it.