I happened to read the short novel by Kennaway before seeing its movie-version "Tunes of Glory". The novel is good, but, quite uncommonly, the film is much better, which is mainly due to the stunning excellence of acting. For instance, reading the book I wasn't quite convinced by the final mental collapse of Jock Sinclair: with his beyond-any-possible-praise performance, Alec Guinness made me wholly understand the deep inner sufferings of the outwardly friendly, tough, rash Scottish officer. The story is very simple, few things happens. The film is almost entirely located in the barracks of a Highlanders regiment. Here we find a (somewhat conventional) clash between the lower-class major Jock Sinclair and the upper-class colonel Barrow (John Mills), who suddenly replaces Jock in the command of the regiment. Jock has started as a simple piper, and has gained his grades on the battle-field during World War II. We gather that he is a natural born soldier-hero, with the typical virtues but also with the defects of natural born heroes, for instance a certain lack of intelligence and sensitiveness. For Jock the war was just a stimulating, if tough, adventure, where he had the opportunity to test his courage and honor. Barrow comes from the Military Academy, and has much more education, manners, and, perhaps, intelligence than Jock. And, by sure, he wholly and bravely accomplished his duties during the war, but we see that, differently from the light-hearted Jock, the horrors of the war have left deep traces in his mind, which increased his natural excitability to a breaking-point. He deeply feels the grief of being looked at as an intruder by the tight community of the other officers. In the movie we find many subtleties on military life. The attachment to the Highlanders tradition is symbolized by the officers' use of calling each other by first name and of drinking whisky: in this sense, important is the scene when a false friend refuses Jock's offer of a glass of whisky, and takes gin, instead. We realize that this impoliteness is not a trifle as it may seem. John Mills is superb in his design of Barrow, and he's only surpassed by Guinness. But the whole cast is fantastic. How good is the "average" British actor is always amazing for me. Alec Guinness for me is the greatest actor of all times. He doesn't act: he IS Jock Sinclair, as he was the myriad of other characters he BECAME during his glorious career. He is so good that, after all, I think that he was underrated, despite his fame. Rest in peace, great Sir Alec, and thank you for all. A final remark. I read somewhere that many British critics and directors, not least Alfred Hitchcock, have considered "Tunes of Glory" the best movie ever made. Indeed, even an Italian as myself can feel that this magnificent film touches some profound chords of the British soul.
Tunes of Glory
Tunes of Glory
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After World War II, a Highland Regiment's acting Commanding Officer, who rose from the ranks, is replaced by a peace-time Oxford-educated Commanding Officer, leading to a dramatic conflict between the two.
February 1, 2020