Gone with the Wind (1939)
Widely regarded by many as an all-time great American classic and still counted amongst the most beloved films ever made, Gone with the Wind is no doubt epic in both the scope & scale of its production and comes jam-packed with dialogues that have since become a staple of pop culture. It was a cinematic event so larger-than-life than nothing like it was ever attempted before on the film canvas. It is also an epic letdown.
Four hours! Four fucking hours! And then you don’t even get a proper resolution! A colossal disappointment by all means, all that Gone with the Wind was for me is one never ending soap opera filled with characters so annoying & despicable that you never grow to care about them. Its now iconic dialogues look better on paper than when said by those characters. And apart from its technically accomplished production, there’s nothing memorable about this sappy & overlong melodrama.
Set against the backdrop of Civil War, the story of Gone with the Wind takes place in the American South and concerns the young, spoiled & manipulative daughter of a plantation owner who claws her way out of war, poverty & other misfortunes yet has a weakness for a man who never reciprocated her love. Things do take an interesting turn when a roguish fellow shows up and takes an interest in her. The plot then covers their turbulent romance as the years goes on & an era passes by.
Directed by Victor Fleming (who also directed The Wizard of Oz), the first half of Gone with the Wind is quite interesting and features some fine, playful interplay between the relevant characters, in addition to moments of true splendour that make deft use of the grand canvas. But soon after we delve into the second half, the picture becomes a chore to sit through. Even the chemistry between our two leads goes downhill after intermission and by the time it nears its conclusion, we just don’t give a damn.
Nevertheless, the scene just before intermission is an instant classic moment. The horrors of war plus the destruction it brings along is finely illustrated. The colours pop out in vivid detail, and the vibrant palette is extensively & effectively applied. Its extravagant set pieces pieces are grand, sumptuous & meticulously detailed, and transport the viewers to the bygone era. Max Steiner’s music has that grandeur feel as well. And the performances from the majority of its cast is strong, something I’ll get to in the next paragraph.
Featuring an ensemble that consists of Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard & Olivia de Havilland, Gone with the Wind benefits from everyone’s contribution but it’s Leigh who steals the show with a performance that embodies her character perfectly. Gable exhibits a charismatic demeanour at first but it diminishes over time. Hallivand is actually the only one worthy of any emotional investment and does well with what she’s given. The chemistry between Leigh & Gable carries a spark but even that slowly burns out as plot progresses.
Clocking at four freaking hours, just managing to sit through it is a daunting task but the rewards aren’t worth the time investment either. Sure the imagery is rich, glossy & colourful but the drama lacks the same level of intensity. There are just so many superfluous moments that the story could’ve done without, especially in the second half, and the fact that it just chooses to go on n on with no ending in sight makes the ride increasingly frustrating. Also, while some may consider the ending fitting, I rather found it to be missing that final piece.
On an overall scale, Gone with the Wind is an exceptionally dull, overly stretched & tediously paced fable that for me has to be one of the most overhyped & overrated films in existence. There are flashes of brilliance throughout the story but they are few & far in between and for the most part, it is an empty exercise in epic storytelling. Even the so-reputed romance aspect isn’t well done, to be honest. The scale of its ambition is no doubt admirable but all in all, Gone with the Wind is a technically impressive but dramatically unconvincing saga that’s no less than an epic failure in my book and as God is my witness, I’ll never revisit this film again.