Friday, December 29, 2017

#616: The Fallen Idol

Directed by: CAROL REED
1948, TSPDT Rank #993

Graham Greene, who wrote the short story on which The Fallen Idol was based and also scripted Carol Reed's next two films (The Third Man and Our Man In Havana), once cited this film as his favorite of all the films he had written. And it's an ingenious little film, which brilliantly illustrates a violent clash between the innocence of childhood and the often corrupting influence of adulthood. As a suspense film, it's very unique, as the primary narrative conceit here is that the audience knows that a butler accused of murdering his wife is innocent, although the web of lies which has been spun around the incident makes it nearly impossible to prove this fact. The primary obstacle to the investigation is an ambassador's son (played with wide-eyed obliviousness by Bobby Henrey), who looks up to the butler (portrayed with the perfect balance of coolness and warmth by Ralph Richardson) but is unsure of his innocence and feels obligated to lie to the police in order to protect him. Graham Greene's screenplay shows how the small lies of childhood grow naturally into adult lies which destroy relationships and blur the line between guilt and innocence, while Carol Reed's careful handling of the material results in a briskly paced film which makes its audience think while never failing to be entertaining at the same time.

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