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Categories: Movie Reviews

The restoration of Robert Hamer’s directorial debut brings back a classic story of morality and class struggle.

Pink-String-and-Sealing-Wax

Recently StudioCanal has announced a new release of a 1945 classic – Pink String and Sealing Wax, a directorial debut by Robert Hamer, who later worked on Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and the Scapegoat (1959) among other noteworthy projects. The new fully restored release of Pink String and Sealing Wax will be available on 25 April on Blu-ray and DVD.

The film takes place in Victorian England circulating around the Suttons, a middle class family dominated by patriarchal and pedantic Edward Sutton (Mervyn Johns), and Pearl Bond (Googie Withers), a promiscuous wife of a pub landlord. The only son in the family, David (Gordon Jackson), falls in love with Pearl, who decides to use his knowledge of pharmaceuticals and chemicals to poison her husband.

The movie takes place in Brighton, mostly either at the pub or in Sutton’s house, so the limited locations, along with many other factors such as theatrical dramatic lighting and acting, remind of a staged performance. Indeed, the film is based on a play by Roland Pertwee and adopts many theatrical storytelling techniques and transitions between the scenes. On the one hand, it seems as if the movie would have worked much better if was properly adapted for a film medium, however this theatricality creates a strong sense of nostalgia for classical cinema, since this style of storytelling is rarely used in modern cinema.

Pink-String-and-Sealing-Wax-1945-1

Although Pearl seems to be the focus of the film, the relationship within the Sutton family is explored in more depth than expected; throughout the movie we witness harsh and conservative attitude of Edward, the father and head of family, towards his children, Peggy (Sally Ann Howes), Victoria (Jean Ireland) and David. These sequences are quite monotone and visually ascetic in comparison to the playful and comic scenes with Pearl, however the Sutton family brings more depth into the film and raise a number of moral questions. Edward accuses David of writing poems and letters to women, forces Victoria to give vocal lessons instead of pursuing her dream to become a professional singer and deprives Peggy of pocket money for feeding his guinea pigs needed for scientific experimentations. Edward’s overprotective and pedantic care for his family may seem harsh and unreasonable for a modern viewer, but his judgments often prove to be correct, although often being opposed by his children.

Oppositely, Pearl’s story is contrasted to the posh middle class Sutton family. She struggles to get along with her drinking husband Joe (Garry Marsh), hence trying to live by her own rules, gossiping and cheating with the pub regulars. The film, therefore, portrays two polarities, two classes with the binary opposites of morality and attitude towards life. Indeed, Edward Sutton’s treatment of his children, although overly strict, is a better way, however not perfect. Both stories offer a lot to learn and allow the viewer to make his/her mind of what is right or wrong by contrasting Pearl and the Suttons.

Although on the surface Pink String and Sealing Wax may seem like an ordinary costume drama, in its essence there is an evident theme of class struggle, as well as the conflict between generations and a thought-provoking question of morality. The contrast of both stories allows the viewer to evaluate those eternal subjects in more detail. The film is quite slow and theatrical which means that more attention will be paid to the dialogue and the interaction between the characters, who are portrayed brilliantly by stunning Googie Withers and a believable patriarch Mervyn Johns. The film is fully restored and contains a number of special features such as interviews, behind-the-scenes stills and a comparison between the original film and the restored version, which allows us to acknowledge how much work has been done to bring the old classic back to life.

After recently graduating from the University of Brighton, I am currently doing an MA Film Studies course at UCL. I am very passionate about cinema and have directed a few short films and a feature, which is currently being screened at various festivals. Above all, I am keen on experimental arts, such as avant-garde or minimalist music and underground film.

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Posted on Apr 24, 2016

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