Starring: Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, George Sanders
Director: Jean Renoir
Running Time: 103 mins
This Land Is Mine is an American film about a cowardly schoolteacher in a small town somewhere in Europe that has been invaded by the Nazis at the height of World War Two. However, he becomes more courageous as he learns of the great injustices that are plaguing his town.
It’s always difficult to get through classic propaganda films nowadays. They’ve got the stars, and they’re all well-made, but the message more often than not overpowers the actual story in the film. Unfortunately, This Land Is Mine suffers from the same problem. Despite having its moments, it ultimately suffers from an undramatic and overlong final act that simply focusses far too much on its message to make a compelling watch.
On the plus side, the performances aren’t half bad. Again, in propaganda films, a higher level of hyperbole is needed to deliver the message and rally the audience in the cinema, which can be a bit jarring from time to time, however Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, George Sanders and others all do their best to inject some greater emotion into the story.
What’s more is that the directing is pretty good. It’s nothing exceptional, but thanks to the impressive sets, and Renoir’s direction, this is a nice film to look at, managing to appear a lot less theatrical than many other propaganda films of the time, with simpler cuts and camera angles that make it at least pleasant to watch.
And the story does have its moments. They mainly come in the first act, when the film revolves more around the townspeople’s resistance against the Nazis, but I was generally engaged in the film at the beginning.
The real problem comes about an hour in, when it all suddenly turns violently towards blatant propaganda. Prior to that, there are of course mentions of the main message of never giving into fascist oppression, but it never overpowers the characters’ own relationships and story.
I’m not entirely sure how long it was, but it felt as if the final act, which centres around Charles Laughton giving a rousing speech about justice and freedom, went on and on and on, failing to add to the emotional power of the character’s situation because it simply felt like a lecture.
Overall, This Land Is Mine isn’t a completely dull film, and it does have its moments in its first act, and its performances and directing help to make it a little more compelling, but it really falls short with a preachy final act that just doesn’t captivate you at all.