Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Journey (1959)

I have always enjoyed films about journeys, in which a group of diverse individuals find themselves united in trying to reach a certain destination. Among my favorite journey pictures is The Journey of 1959, starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr. Watching the film as a child, it was the first time I heard of the Hungarian uprising of 1956, which is the backdrop for the adventure. A group of travelers from various nations are fleeing the chaos which explodes as Hungarian patriots attempt to win their freedom from their Soviet "liberators." Yul Brynner plays Major Surov, the Russian officer who holds the travelers hostage at an inn in an isolated village. Deborah Kerr portrays Lady Diana Ashmore, the very embodiment of aristocratic refinement and decadence that earthy, hard-drinking Surov has been taught to despise.

Lady Diana finds herself in a predicament as she attempts to help her former lover, a Hungarian scientist, escape the Iron Curtain. Paul Kedes (Jason Robarbs) has been hideously tortured by the Soviets because of his past connection with Diana, adding to the several layers of guilt which weigh her down. Diana's guilt is compounded by the fact that she finds herself attracted to Major Surov, who is obviously smitten with her. Surov, a complicated soul, longs for friendship and conversation with his hostages, even as he brutally suppresses the Hungarian freedom fighters. He is disturbed by the lie he is living as the alleged "liberator" of the people whom he is persecuting on behalf of a totalitarian regime. Perhaps that is why he lashes out at Diana for the lies in her own life.

When Paul's identity as a fugitive from justice is discovered, Diana is pressured by the other travelers to offer herself to Surov in exchange for the party being allowed to leave Hungary. The confrontation between Surov and Diana is one of the most electric scenes ever shot; in spite of his passion, Surov sends her away. In the end, the Major risks everything in order to follow his conscience and by acting thus becomes free. He is no longer a Soviet drone but a man who can prove his love by making the ultimate sacrifice. As Diana slips across the rickety bridge into Austria and liberty, she knows that she will never again be so completely loved, even as she hears the shots ring out on the other side of the border.

The Journey is not an easy film to find in video stores, but it is shown on TCM from time to time. Share


Enbrethiliel said...


I saw the trailer on TCM many years ago, when my cable provider still carried it, but did not take note of the title. Even then, I remember being absolutely riveted and wanting to know how the story worked itself out.

elena maria vidal said...

It's a great story. What's really enjoyable are the exchanges and the repartee between the various characters from such different backgrounds.

Stephanie A. Mann said...

I agree with you, Elena Maria, that this is a wonderful movie. Deborah Kerr was indeed a tremendous actress--I remember long time ago she was on the "Mike Douglas Show" (remember that?) and he confused her British pronunciation of "ballet" dancing with "belly" dancing! Have you ever blogged on "Random Harvest" with Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman? That is also a great movie, recently shown on TCM.

elena maria vidal said...

I'll blog on Random Harvest at your request. Greer Garson is one of my favorites, too.