The Stranger (1946)

Mr. Wilson: "But we have one ally. Her subconscious, it knows what the truth is and it's waiting to be heard."
By Orson Welles
With Edward G. Robinson, Loretta Young and Orson Welles

Choosing to see The Stranger was a very easy task, simply because I have yet to see a movie by Orson Welles that I don't enjoy. I also have a great fondness for Film-Noir, even though my knowledge of that genre is not yet as extensive as I wished it to be, I really appreciate the genre.

The Stranger starts with an old man being released from prison. We know that he used to be a Nazi and we also know that he is being followed. The old man leads us to a quiet town of Connecticut where he unravels stories when meeting an old friend, one who would rather not have the past dug up.

The Stranger is a great title, because The Stranger is simply the one we don't know about. At times it can be the old man, but it can also be the quiet college teacher, the husband or the detective turned antiques buyer. The film makes great use of contrast, shadows and light, and as often is in Orson Welles' movies, the black and white film is used to its maximum capacity to create a threatening, paranoiac atmosphere.

The church tower plays an even more important role and every scene including it is somewhat larger than life, just like the tower dominates the quiet town of Harper. If The Stranger doesn't hold the mystery and darkness of Touch of Evil (1958), it works on every level and it doesn't ever disappoint as a strongly tied Film-Noir crime film. The references to the Holocaust however is not absolutely necessary to the plot, but can probably be regarded as a very strong comment on society as the film came out 1946, only one year after the world learnt about the concentration camps. While it might seem like a very straightforward crime film, it dares to explore questions such as a wife's loyalty with her husband and such commitments, and it also briefly deals with the psychological side effects of forging a new identity and the persons around someone with a new identity discovering about it slowly.

I liked: Classic Film-Noir. It is not the best of the genre, but has all the elements you'd love to find in such a film. Orson Welles style shines through in this quiet town under turmoil setting. The fact that the viewer knows the truth but sees every character learning, discovering about it at their own rhythm. The church tower.

I disliked: Mary didn't seem to be up to being the lead and her character was sometimes reduced to a very childish role.

Not the best Orson Welles movie, but very solid movie without much flaws. It should please any old movies buff.


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