Sunday, 20 November 2011

And Then There Were None [1945]

Adapted from The Ten Little Indians, the enormously popular novel by the legendary British mystery novelist Agatha Christie, Rene Clair’s And Then There Were None provided a classic template that has been used and rehashed numerous times over. The brilliant and ingenuous plot dealt with the bumping off of each of ten strangers who’ve assembled on an island one by one – possibly by someone who’s part of that motley group. Each of the ten people has some dark and violent past, thus making the carefully orchestrated murders acts of extra-judicial punishments for their sins. To make matters more interesting, the popular and grotesque nursery rhyme that formed the basis for the titles of both the book and movie is followed almost like a ritual by the mysterious judge, jury and executioner with cold and ruthless precision. Technically or as a piece of art the movie might not have been groundbreaking, but that’s not to say the movie was short of merits – rather far from it. Though the narrative never moves at the kind of breakneck speed today’s thrillers tend to, the elegant pacing worked very well by ensuring slow but quietly engaging buildup of suspense and mystery. Though some of the performances do border on the theatrics, on the whole the movie was well enacted, especially by the excellent character actor Barry Fitzgerald as an odd-looking former judge with a sinister smile perpetually attached to his face, among others. Interestingly, the director was loyal to the source material for most parts, but chose for some drastic deviations for the finale.

Director: Rene Clair
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Ensemble Film
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

You are quite right to single out Fitzgerald as the judge who had as you point out a sinister quality to go with the wry humor. This is a surefire Rene Clair classic based on one of the most celebrated novels by the world's most popular author. I have read the book several times, have taught it in my sixth grade classes, and have used the film afterwards to boot. Yes, some of teh acting is definitely theatrical, but it is strong overall, and the setting is very well employed.

Wonderful review here.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Yeah, the book by Agatha Christie still continues to be popular, and the movie sure managed to do justice to the book. Great to know that you've taken up the book for your students - I'm sure they've loved it, and the movie as well. I too feel that more of the works of the likes of Agatha Christie & Arthur Conan Doyle should be taught in junior & middle school, given that their books are both enriching & entertaining.