Movie Review by Yaron Brook

This Land Is Mine

Directed by: Jean Renoir
Produced by: Jean Renoir & Dudley Nichols
Written by: Dudley Nicholes
Actors: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, George Sanders, Walter Slezak, Una O'Connor

This Land is Mine is a Romantic movie about heroism. Not the heroism of physical action, but the heroism that is required to conquer one's fear and stand up for what one believes in; for the truth. The movie follows a number of characters in a village somewhere in Europe (the country where the village is located is purposefully not specified) that falls under the occupation of the Nazis. Each of the characters in the movie makes his own choices, and represents a different philosophical attitude to the situation at hand. The Nazi commander portrays evil in all its disguises, from brutality to clever manipulation. The major of the town cooperates fully with the Nazis; thus representing the totally corrupt pragmatic politician. The railroad station master, played by George Sanders, portrays the reluctant pragmatist who thinks he is doing the right thing and that he has no choice. He ultimately pays a heavy price for his actions, thus illustrating the real destructiveness of pragmatism. The young railroad worker, represents heroism and defiance in the realm of physical action. The school headmaster who heads the resistance to the Nazis, maintains an almost Platonic defiance representing the ideological force opposing the tyrant.

While these characters represent the ideological framework, the movie centers on three additional characters: the timid schoolteacher, played brilliantly by Charles Laughton, his mother, played by Una O'Connor, and his co-worker, the woman he secretly loves, played by Maureen O'Hara. The movie follows Laughton's development and growth from cowardice to heroism. Over the length of the movie we see him change from being overwhelmed with fear while hiding in the shelter during a bomb raid on the town above, to the brave individual, defiantly and in the face of death, exposing the methods and schemes of the tyrants while openly calling the towns people to rebel. Thus, his transformation represents man's ultimate control over his own destiny, man's faculty of free will.

His mother adds the final indictment against pragmatism, and subjectivism; even though she acts out of love for her son, and in an effort to save his life, her betrayal ultimately sets of the chain of events that lead to her son's death. Maureen O'Hara's character is the pivot in the movie. She learns to understand the dangers of pragmatism, and the risk involved in doubting those one loves. She also is a witness to the changes Laughton's character undergoes, and in the end of the movie in a powerful scene, she is the one left holding the flame of liberty and man's rights.

The movie manages a unique blend of heroism and romantic love. In the final dramatic court scene, the school teacher's heroism is not only expressed in his standing up to the Nazi occupier, but also in his internal strength and sincerity, as he confesses, for the first time his love for his fellow school teacher. This is a powerful and dramatic moment, a moment in which the director achieves an unique integration of the concept of heroism.

The final message of the movie is that evil exists and triumphs only when assisted by the good; only by the sanction of the victim. This is expressed in the movie implicitly in the inability of the Nazis to catch the saboteurs without the active assistance of those pragmatic individuals who believe they are doing good, and explicitly when Charles Laughton states, in his dramatic court room speech, that it is only with the cooperation of the various towns people that the Nazis maintain their rule. He clearly states the truth; that if this sanction is lifted, the tyrants rule will crumble. This is of course the message conveyed by Ayn Rand in her novels The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, and is as true today as ever before.

Reviewed by: Yaron Brook