The Seventh Sin Film Details
Overview: In post-WWII Hong Kong, unhappily married Carol has an affair with a married man. Her husband discovers it and presents her with a choice: travel with him to a remote mainland village or face the scandal of a very public divorce.
Review: Somerset Maugham’s taste for exotic locales is used to good purpose in this story of how a doctor’s wife “finds” herself after an extramarital affair. I happened to catch this film half-way through (missed Parker’s affair with Aumont), however, the Chinese locale and the level of acting kept me watching until the end, especially as I had just seen John Ford’s “Seven Women” recently on the TCM channel. The question is, why did Ford’s movie fail (for me), and this one succeed? Both were shepherded by distinguished directors, and the casting in both is impressive –so should we fault the script? In fact, one might say that the Neame & Minnelli team elicted better performances than did Ford in his China setting. Despite the impressive cast and Bancroft’s intensity, everything about Ford’s film seemed “wrong,” and the setting in China was totally incidental to the struggle between the two leading ladies. In “Seventh Sin,” however, Parker’s struggle seemed very real, despite her cool demeanor (what would Deborah Kerr have done with this role?), and her inter-action, and later friendship with the Mother Superior appears honestly won. Unlike another reviewer, I did not think that Bill Travers’ performance was wooden. His reticent honesty works well here. It is a decided contrast to the stagy performance he gave with Jenifer Jones in “Barretts of Wimpole Street,” where he seemed to shout through his role (this movie failed for me on other counts, too). In “Seventh Sin,” the casting of George Sanders as the sympathetic local who marries a Chinese works quite well as a foil to the bluff but kind Travers, and for once, Sanders acts against type and gives a commendable, unmannered performance. In fact he is quite likable and also mastered some Chinese for the role. His Chinese wife is not credited, but I found her acting to be stiff and lacking in warmth or charm; her accent and the year 1957 when the movie was filmed made it likely that she was had spent at least a decade in Taiwan, rather than being born in the “imperial” family that Sanders claims and escaping to Hongkong. As for the Chinese/Hong Kong setting, one wonders whether it could have been interchangeable with Algeria, or Africa. Was it incidental to the plot, as one could argue with “Seven Women”? No, I don’t think so. A character like the one Parker portrays had to discover her inner resources in a foreign country, and among persons who were less than amenable to her — the Chinese, whose language she didn’t understand, and the sisters of the convent — definitely an essential feature of the Maugham original. Francoise Rosay is particularly convincing as the Mother Superior; this is a role that cuts to the heart of the character (unlike Margaret Leighton’s role vis a vis Anne Bancroft’s in “Seven Women”). The Mother Superior is not a one-dimensional person, but someone who has lived and who ultimately is the one who understands Travers’ final words. She is able to interpret them correctly for the Parker, thereby absolving the guilty wife of her personal anguish. This is a very moving way to end the story, and contrasts with the heroic but blatant staging of Bancroft’s suicide in “Seven Women.” These parallels may not seem obvious to others, but they kept cropping up for me as I watched it. I think for those who are interested in how China/Hong Kong is presented in Western film (compare for example, with “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” or “Sand Pebbles”), and for the rendering of stories by literary authors such as Maugham, “Seventh Sin” carries a sincerity of tone which makes it notable. Also, anything directed by Ronald Neame (“Blithe Spririt,” “Major Barbara,” “This Happy Breed” and other distinguished films), not to mention Vincenti Minnelli, makes it is definitely worth a look.
Language: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, French, Italian
Duration: 94 min
Also known as: The Seventh Sin,Hongkong war ihr Schicksal,El séptimo pecado,To evdomo amartima,Il settimo peccato,O Sétimo Pecado,Seitsemäs synti,Siódmy grzech,La passe dangereuse,Den sjunde synden,Den syvende synd,Yedinci Günah