“I don’t want to be the conscience of the world; I don’t want to be the conscience of anybody.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues the film is “politically confusing,” noting that “Kazan and [screenwriter John] Steinbeck wanted to make an anti-communist tract, equating the Mexican revolution to what happened in Russia” — but “while they get across their central theme that power corrupts anybody,” they “are also responsible for making viewers realize the necessity of armed insurrection in some countries, which is certainly a revolutionary stance for an American film.” He asserts that the “film is depressing because, while it shows that revolution is sometimes necessary, there can never be success because the leaders of a revolution will invariably sell out their followers.”
As someone unfamiliar with the complexities of the Mexican Revolution, I watched this film less with an eye towards historical accuracy and more as a tale of a determined man-of-the-people rising to power, and the choices he must make once he’s “arrived”. To that end, Brando’s Oscar-nominated performance — which Peary refers to as “surprisingly subdued” (“probably because the corners of his eyes were glued down”) — is an interesting one. Even while courting his soon-to-be-wife (Jean Peters):
… he is deadly serious; however, once he realizes the political shenanigans he’s been caught up in, we can see a palpable shift occurring, as he understands he will need to make some challenging choices.
Peary writes that the “film’s most striking scenes are those that show the peasants working together at revolutionary action”:
… and points out the “impressive outdoor photography by Joseph MacDonald.” This earnest biopic isn’t must-see viewing, but is worth a one-time look.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments: