Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Only Way (1970)

          Readily available data on this World War II drama is contradictory, with some sources indicating it’s a Danish production, others describing it as an international coproduction, and still more sources claiming the picture is American (even though the credits plainly state it was shot in Denmark). Adding to the confusion, two of the primary actors are English, whereas most of the players are Danes. Oh, and good luck nailing down when (if ever) the picture was released theatrically in the US. Nonetheless, The Only Way merits attention in this space since it’s a respectable film featuring Jane Seymour’s first significant big-screen role.
          Set in and around Copenhagen circa the 1940s, the movie dramatizes the travails of the Stein family as the German occupation of Denmark escalates. Patriarch Morten (Martin Potter) is a violin dealer who recently acquired a valuable antique instrument, and his daughter, Lillian (Jane Seymour), is a ballet teacher. After Lillian learns from friends that the Nazis plan to evacuate all Jews from Copenhagen, she tells her father it’s time for the family to flee, but he stubbornly refuses, believing that acquiescence to the Third Reich will empower their totalitarian rampage. What ensues is a slow-burn thriller as Morten, Lillian, and members of their extended family take different postures on the issue at hand, leading to domestic strife. Meanwhile, friends of the family explore possible escape routes even as the Nazis tighten their anti-Semitic net. At the same time, opportunists exploit and threaten the Steins.
          Benefiting greatly from extensive location photography, solid period costuming, and workmanlike performances, The Only Way is never less than palatable—yet it’s rarely more than that. The characterizations are thin, the script often sidelines the Steins to focus on peripheral characters, and obvious opportunities for creating deep interpersonal conflict are ignored. The movie starts with Morten refusing to face reality and never really advances that theme until the very last shots. Similarly, despite spending a fair amount of time introducing Lillian’s love for dance, her relationship with the arts ultimately has little impact on the plot. Still, nearly any film celebrating the heroism of WWII resistance has inherent worth, and it’s interesting to watch Seymour as an ingénue prior to her sexualized breakout role as a Bond girl in Live and Let Die (1973).

The Only Way: FUNKY

No comments: