– Our Mother’s House is the movie for the weekend. In this section every Saturday or Sunday Celluloid Dimension picks a movie for the weekend. The selections are preferably underrated movies or neglected movies that we think should get more attention. Have fun with these recommendations. –
Our Mother’s House (1967) Directed by Jack Clayton
A morbidly moving story about the crisis of faith suffered by a family of fundamentalist Christians after the matriarch dies of an unspecified illness. Seven children raised fatherless are orphaned after their mother’s premature death, and all they have left are their pious innocence, biblical literalism, and their mother’s spiritual desires. The seven heirs to an old Victorian house, monthly paychecks and an ironclad religiosity take the arbitrary decision to pursue speculative instinct and divine providence as guides for their unorthodox actions, thus excusing their mother’s furtive burial in the backyard of their home and a sovereign lifestyle with no adult presence. Jack Clayton’s meticulousness demands a certain intellectual forbearance – the observation of circumstances is exceedingly detail-oriented, uncompromisingly inclined to a severe realism that exacerbates the disturbed psyche of the characters – and when Dirk Bogarde appears midway through the film as the uncouth and villainous father figure disrupting the conservative and pure state of the seven siblings, the style becomes more penetrating: much more complex than in its earlier forms.
The provocative exercise is hidden behind the pristine countenances of the children, in the candor of the performances and in Georges Delerue’s beautifully sensitive score; it is during Bogarde’s ferocious entrance when the cult of childhood innocence is corrupted by the heartless ambition of a despicable man exposing the rottenness of the human soul in a dark facet. In a way, the film has the audacity to do justice in its monstrous ending, a kind of divine justice that is still ambivalent on the border between good and evil. It’s great British cinema, and a triumph in child and adolescent performances – Pamela Franklin is laudable, Margaret Brooks is breathtaking, and Phoebe Nicholls is simply a miracle in dramatic gestures – it’s a haunting but sublime tale that dissects domestic issues of grand magnitude; it’s serene but alert, it’s sinister but heartfelt. Radical stuff.