Flippin Sweet Dude

September 8, 2014

The African Queen

Filed under: Films — Tags: , , , — erika @ 1:04 pm

The African Queen is set in the German occupied part of Africa in 1914. Mr. Allnut is a steamboat driver who delivers the mail and news to the British missionaries there in Africa. This movie starts with the missionaries trying to get the native people to sing hymns. It turns into a cacophony of noises, the missionary singing trying to be louder than the droning monotone syllable of the natives. Mr. Allnut comes into the village and causes a disturbance to end the church session. He is invited to stay for tea where he has an embarrassing scene of his stomach growling and making Rose and her brother uncomfortable. As an afterthought Mr. Allnut lets them know as he is leaving that he won’t be bringing any mail for a while as they are at war with Germany back home.

The ominous sound of drums can be heard in the background announcing the arrival of the German soldiers rounding up the natives to go to war for them and burning their huts so they have no where to return to. This sends Rose’s brother off the deep end and he goes crazy with fever and dies making this the catalyst to push Rose into action. Mr. Allnut comes back to see the village in ashes and Rose sitting devastated on the porch. The bleak scene portrays that there is nothing left to stick around for prompting Mr. Allnut to offer to take Rose with him and hide off of an island until the whole war blows over. The music leading up to getting on the African Queen is foreboding and I thought for sure they would be caught right there. It quickly changes to a jaunty little tune fitting for a peaceful trip down the river.

Rose comes up with a plan of action, she is not content with waiting out the war, she wants to do something to stop the Germans because she blames them for her brother’s death. The idea to go down the river that only one other person has ever survived shows how desperate she is. The use of close up shots in the film really lets you see not only the obvious reactions to each other, but you can see how much more of a story can be told just by reading the body language in each of the actors. Between the close up shots and the music played you can see the distaste that Rose has for anyone who chooses to lose himself to drinking.

The framing of the steamboat in the shots going down the river rapids is large to help make the effects seem bigger. There are some wide shots where it looks like a toy boat being tossed down the rapids put together with some close up shots to show the actors reactions to being thrown down the river. Compared to the quality of editing today, it was very clear at points what was added to the film. You can see the outline of the actors is clearly in front of a picture behind them and when they encounter the swarm of mosquitoes it looks as if there are just floating particles edited over them with the sound of bugs. Even my boys laughed at that. There was the charming B story in the film of falling in love, even though they were complete opposites.

To me the ending was wrapped up a little too neatly. They are captured, about to be hung and then they crash into the sunken African Queen to still blow up the Louisa. That was too much of a Hollywood ending where everything turns out just right in the end. Maybe that was how people liked watching their films in the 1950’s. I usually enjoy them more when there is a dash of reality to the film. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a happily ever after once in a while too.

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