Seventh Veil, The (1946)

“The human mind is like Salome at the beginning of her dance: hidden from the outside world by seven veils, layers of reserve.”

Synopsis:
A suicidal concert pianist (Ann Todd) — raised by a demanding, enigmatic guardian (James Mason) — is hypnotized by a psychiatrist (Herbert Lom) who hopes to uncover the root of her neurosis.

Genres:

Review:
The Seventh Veil was immensely popular upon its release, with British audiences attending screenings in droves. Today, it comes across as somewhat dated (the theme of hypnosis as a magic cure for one’s ills is especially laughable), but remains a compelling, almost compulsively watchable tale. Unfortunately, Todd was much too old to be playing her character at the age of 14 (a younger look-alike should have been used), but she’s fine in later scenes; Mason is as dark and brooding as always, and perfectly cast.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An intriguing, well-told story of dominance, love, and psychosis
    Dominance

Must See?
Yes, due to its historic popularity.

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One Response to “Seventh Veil, The (1946)”

  1. A must. In theory, at least, I’d venture that any movie that begins with a ‘who is this woman?; why is she escaping?; running?; attempting suicide?’ sequence is a must. But ‘SV’ has other strengths as well.

    Mostly James Mason. It’s probably true that very few JM movies are not musts. He’s that good. Note how he sets the tone early on with Todd:

    JM: “This is a bachelor establishment. Do you know what that word means?”
    AT: “Yes, it – means that you’re not married.”
    JM: “It means that I don’t like women about the place.”

    (Like Claude Rains in the delirious, non-Peary, musician flick ‘Deception’, we’re not to think JM is gay!)

    Todd is, as noted, generally “fine”. It doesn’t bother me that she’s too old for the girlhood segment (that’s a staple of certain films and we can often just accept it). On the other hand, I wouldn’t call her one of cinema’s best actresses.

    ‘SV’ also has stunning b&w photography, effective montage work throughout, and all that glorious classical music!

    Still, though it’s great entertainment, it remains somewhat psychologically unsound – mainly because Todd has two opportunities to experience a satisfying personal life (one with an accomplished musician!) and Mason thwarts both. This aspect of the film leads to a somewhat illogical ending; unless you take note of the fact that, under JM’s tutelage, Todd is able to play piano marvelously in her official debut even when we think a backstage reunion with her girlhood friend will make her too self-conscious for flawlessness. I don’t know that I buy the way things ultimately turn out (given the evidence; esp. that she does attempt suicide) but, after all, it is a love story of sorts – if a tad twisted.

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