Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)

“The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it.”

            Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a very moving love story. The Flying Dutchman legend tells of a seventeenth century Dutch seaman who after he killed his wife has cursed himself to wander the seas until doomsday or until a woman is willing to die for him. A woman named Pandora Reynolds has men falling all over themselves for her. One man who cannot gain her real love goes so far as to kill himself. Another man drives his racing car over the side of a cliff to prove he truly loves her. One night Pandora spots a boat out at sea and curiously swims up to the boat by herself. On board the captain named Hendrik Van der Zee. He is painting a picture of a woman who looks identical to Pandora but the two of them have never met before. As time goes on Pandora truly falls in love Hendrik he is always on her mind. Hendrik falls loves Pandora as well. They talk about how they feel for each other one night on the beach. Hendrik asks Pandora if she would be willing to die for him and she said that the thought had crossed her mind. He gets mad at himself for asking such a question because he really loves her and would never want her to die for him. After that he tries to push her away so nothing bad will happen to her. But in the end Pandora’s love for the old sea captain conquers all and she makes the ultimate sacrifice for love.
            Ava Gardner was the best choice to play Pandora. In real life she was the ultimate temptress who men would no anything just to get her to notice them. This was Gardner’s first Technicolor film and my goodness was she gorgeous. On screen she exudes that sexy siren. I can see why so many men were (and probably still are) so captivated by her. I am comfortable with myself to say that she was sexy I had my eyes glued to her the whole time. Her acting is alright at times it just felt like Gardner was saying the lines not putting any emotion behind them at all… but then again that is how most of the film felt. Today when writers write a story of a woman who is a temptress the actress picked is so unbelievable at times but with Ava Gardner you believed she could tempt the pants off of any man she was just so beautiful.

Ava Gardner in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.

            James Mason was excellent. I was not thrilled with him in the slightest in East Side, West Side also with Ava Gardner but he was perfect as the Dutchman. He gave the only emotion out of all the actors in the film. When I read he was in this film I was not looking forward to watching this too much but once I saw that he was calm and not being a lady’s man I really enjoyed him. The scene where he reads the Dutchman’s old diary and enacts the story he was reading was brilliant, I did not want it to end. Mason had that old soul look as if he really could have been from Europe around the seventeenth century.
James Mason and Ava Gardner in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.
            Director Albert Lewin was interested in mythology and the story of the Flying Dutchman as well as Surrealism. One of Lewin’s friends was the Surrealist artist Man Ray. Lewin had Ray paint the portrait of Pandora that Hendrik had painted. Many shots in the film have a very Surrealist quality about them: one scene has Ava Gardner lying on the sand, her profile and lips are shown in the foreground and another character standing in the background. A very Surrealist scene has a group of musicians playing right on top of statues and ruins on the beach as well as people dancing on them. It is difficult to explain if you have not seen the film or know Surrealist art. Surrealist art depending on which artist’s work you are looking at can be really weird. This film takes on a other worldly feeling and that is basically one of the qualities of Surrealist art. If you look up Man Ray you will kind of understand what I am talking about. He was very into beauty and woman. One of his most famous muses was the photographer Lee Miller.
            Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is a very good film. The story and the modern retelling was done very well Albert Lewin did a wonderful job on the script and direction. I would not recommend it to everyone it is more of a film to watch if you really like Ava Gardner or are interested in Surrealism.