Starring: Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter
Director: Elia Kazan
Running Time: 122 mins
A Streetcar Named Desire is an American film about a troubled woman who moves in with her sister in New Orleans, however her presence begins to enrage her sister’s brutish husband, who worsens her weak mental situation.
This a thrillingly captivating classic drama, with an enthralling plot, stunning performances, a fantastic score and great directing. On the face of things, it may not seem like much, but this is truly an incredibly impressive and unpredictable film.
Let’s start with the fascinating story here. The plot revolves around Blanche DuBois, a seemingly troubled and particularly mysterious woman who comes to stay in her sister’s run-down apartment in New Orleans, and her conflicts with both Stanley Kowalski, her sister’s husband, and her own mind.
The story starts off as a largely run-of-the-mill melodrama, with family and financial troubles appearing to have sent Blanche’s life into ruin, however the reason that this film is so good is that its story, from the play of course, takes a completely different direction to what you would expect.
It becomes more and more dark throughout, both evidently and subtly, as the conflict with Stanley is incredibly intense and at times very violent, whilst the ever-growing mystery about Blanche DuBois is one of the most fascinating, unpredictable and unconventional plot lines I’ve ever seen.
Towards the end (no spoilers here), the story takes an even more melodramatic turn, however it fully increases the excitement and intrigue, building up to a genuinely thrilling and massively dramatic climax that is absolutely brilliant to watch.
Away from the plot, the other most impressive thing about this film is the central performances. Marlon Brando is excellent as the brutish, violent husband, and he does a brilliant job at being almost terrifying whenever he walks into a room, commanding great screen presence.
However, even Brando doesn’t match up to Vivien Leigh’s astonishing performance here, as she completely owns every scene she’s in. From the start, her portrayal of Blanche DuBois is striking, with all of her oddly unnerving twitches and seemingly paranoid behaviours only heightening the intrigue and mystery surrounding her character, and as the film unfolds, Leigh expertly handles the fascinating development of DuBois, putting in one of the best performances I’ve ever seen right the way through.
Elia Kazan’s directing is also very impressive here. His presentation of New Orleans and the apartment in which the majority of the film is set is brilliant, making the setting appear very dark and seemingly constantly on-edge, whilst some of the camera work he also employs throughout is another ingenious vehicle to really increase the tension and excitement.
And the final reason that this is such an exciting and surprisingly intense film is the score. Whether it’s in a quiet dialogue scene or an integral climactic conflict, the music plays such a big role in creating an atmosphere in this film, and it really stands out amongst a lot of classic Hollywood scores as something a lot more than simple ambience.
Overall, then, this gets an 8.5, not only because of its fascinating and enthralling story, but because of the brilliant ensemble of great direction, scoring and incredible performances that all tie together to make this a properly impressive picture.