ARCH OF TRIUMPH. 1985. DIRECTED BY WARIS HUSSEIN. STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, LESLEY-ANNE DOWN, FRANK FINLAY AND DONALD PLEASENCE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This film is so sad. It makes me cry every time I watch it. Based on the book of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque, author of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, it’s set in Paris in 1939. The minute you see the year come up on the bottom of the screen, you’ll know exactly what historical events loomed large at the time and that Europe was on the brink of a massive upheaval.
A young-ish and handsome Anthony Hopkins plays Ravic, an Austrian doctor who has spent time in a concentration camp for helping Jews to escape from the Nazis. The always beautiful Lesley-Anne Down is Joan Madou, a messed-up woman who’s at the end of her rope when she meets Ravic. In the parlance of the day, they have a love affair. It is sad, bittersweet, sexual and ultimately doomed.
They struggle on as best they can through Ravic’s deportation and Joan’s complex relationships with other men. Just when it looks like they’re really going to get it together properly, Ravic makes an unforgivable mistake. He puts a chance to get revenge against the Nazi who tortured him ahead of his relationship with Joan and the chance of true happiness with her. Is she waiting patiently for him when he returns from his self-imposed mission? She might be, but with a twist…
As well as the two leads, who are brilliant together, there are a couple of excellent supporting performances in the film. Donald Pleasence is superb as the evil Nazi Haake, though naturally all I could think of when I saw him in his Nazi uniform was:
‘Why, Doctor Loomis, whyyyyyyyy…?’
Frank Finlay too is terrific as the burly hotel doorman who time and again proves himself to be a true friend of Ravic’s. If you have even one true friend in life, I reckon you’re doing okay. Oh Lord, just thinking about the two of them looking out for each other during such turbulent times is causing the tears to start up again.
I’m off to find the tissues. While I’m gone, you go and find this film and watch it. If your tear ducts need a good washing-out, this’ll do the job nicely. Even if you don’t think they do, it’s always as well to stay on top of these things…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: