Frieda (1947), BFI Southbank ‘Dark Ealing’ season

Basil Dearden’s 1947 film for Ealing Studios must have been quite inflammatory on its first release, being so soon after World War Two. The plot concerns the marriage of RAF pilot Bob Dawson (David Farrar) to German nurse Frieda (Swedish actress Mai Zetterling), and their return to his village home in England. Frieda saved his life, but she is still the enemy, and families within the village cannot forgive or forget the loss of their loved ones and the attempts to devastate their country.

Plot points including Bob’s brother being lost in the war, with the wife he left behind (Glynis Johns) holding a torch for the brother who lived, the sister (Flora Robson) who stands for Parliament on an anti-German ticket, and – improbably – the sudden appearance of Frieda’s Nazi brother (Albert Lieven), who at first appears friendly but shows his fanaticism, when he gives his sister a Swastika necklace, leaving her to despair …

One of the darker entries in the Ealing Studios canon, this film is little known and seen these days, perhaps because of his attitude towards the people who attempted to win a World War a second time. The Germans are demonised by the villagers but in the end, the moral of the tale is that each person cannot be held accountable for the actions of many, regardless of whether they knew of those actions or not. The standout performers in this are not the leads, but rather Johns and Robson, who provide their characters with enough subtlety to cut through the more ridiculous parts of the plot.

About Louise Penn

Writer, reviewer, fan. View all posts by Louise Penn

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