Friday, June 04, 2010

Unique Time Capsule: Ninotchka

I love the way that sometimes a film freezes a period in time, telling a story that can only be told in that very moment.

I recently watched the 1939 film Ninotchka, which was a film, that while could be re-made now as a period piece, is far more wonderful as a contemporary film.

Obviously in 1939 WWII was beginning in Europe, and this film acknowledges this by predating the film in an opening slide that alludes to the story taking place in an earlier time, although I sense that addition was an after thought of clarification for contemporary audiences.

This story stars Greta Garbo as a representative from the Soviet Republic who is sent to straighten out three comrades who are in over there head in a sale of confiscated jewels when the case becomes litigated.

An example of the the unique flavor this film has as a 1939 film is the way the Russians respond when they go to pick up the special envoy from the train station. In the scene there is a moment when they think they have identified their superior, but instead through mannerisms and a "Hale Hitler" realize he is in fact a German, not a Russian. These scene is used as comedy, in a way that might be balked at today.

But it fit the time, wasn't over kill for the time. Additionally, the humor about the Soviet Union was relevant to the time, there were jokes about the 5 year plan for example.

Like many films the content serves as a time capsule, and really speaks to the importance of contemporary films, including comedies, that deal with contemporary issues.

This a incredibly fun film, from the incredible film year 1939.

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