Friday, February 15, 2013

"The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)

A man visits our planet with a massage of peace, an appeal for people to get along. He poses as a carpenter and is killed only to rise again and return to the heavens, but first leaves us an ultimatum. Find a way to resolve your differences or you will not be welcome in the heavenly realms. In fact, you will be destroyed.

No, this is not some confused interpretation of the Christian story. It is a cold war allegory calling for an end to the atomic power struggle. And it is a great film that holds up great these 60+ years later. This is the best sort of Sci-Fi. Even though there are very few special effects, the story is strong and it keeps us engaged. This is such strong drama, in fact, that it may play better than some of its effects-heavy contemporary examples.

Here the enemy is not an alien, not even his robot. Human paranoia is the danger that threatens to destroy the planet. We are so busy imagining how terrible the visitors intentions may be that we are not prepared to stop and listen to the real warning he has come to deliver.

Even beyond the great script and acting, this is a gem of a visual story. Wise directs this film using interesting angles, compositions and a beautiful interplay of light and shadow. The art direction, set design and cinematography are wonderful. It truly is one of the greatest films.

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