Friday, 7 May 2010

DVD Review - Danielle Steele's "The Ring" (1996)

This TV movie based on the novel of the same name by famous author Danielle Steele isn't really my sort of thing, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. Had I known it would be a rather gruelling 3-hour affair, maybe I wouldn't have! I didn't exactly dislike the movie, but I found it to be overlong.

The film stars Nastassja Kinski as Ariana von Gotthard, a young girl whose mother commits suicide and who, along with her father Walmar (played by Michael York) and brother Gerhard (Rupert Penry-Jones) plan to escape Germany.  Walmar is the vice chairman of a successful bank and doesn't like what Germany has become; he's managed to shield Gerhard from being forced into the army for a long time, but that cannot last.  After the childen help a friend Max Thomas (Tim DeKay) to escape after his wife is murdered by the Nazis, the von Gotthard's hatch their own escape plan.  Trying to avoid suspicion Walmar crosses the border to Switzerland with Gerhard and returns home to get Ariana, but he's murdered by soldiers before he can get back and the family's maid shops Ariana to the Gestapo.

From there it's a tortuous tale of Ariana wondering what's happened to her family, being brutalised by soldiers, finding love again, losing the man she loves, nearly dying, escaping overseas under an assumed name, finding love once more but losing it again, trying to find her brother, her brother's journey from Switzerland to Paris, finding love, finding out he's been tricked, Max getting to America and trying to find the people who helped him to escape all those years ago...

You get the picture.  The plot is complex and multi-layered, and despite a couple of scenes which seemed a bit too far-fetched, rather interesting.  Even though it's not really my sort of film, I did find myself getting drawn into the web of intrigue and caring about some of the characters.  The movie is quite nicely filmed with sets and effects much better than those in your average TC movie.  One of the main problems I had with it was the music - while it was good in itself, it was rather overbearing and tended to detract from rather than add to the atmosphere and intensity of several scenes.  It also occasionally made it difficult to actually hear what the characters were saying on a couple of occasions.

The performances were, on the whole, good.  The opening scene lacked the power it should have had due to the overbearing music problem mentioned above being ridiculous at that point, and Michael York, while making a fairly convincing German, struggled to convince in a couple of scenes.  Apart from all the angst and tragedy, the movie does make some interesting observations about the attitudes of the time and human nature in general.

There was the occasional lighter moment, though most of it was relentlessly oppressive in terms of atmosphere - however this was appropriate due to the setting.  I have a limited tolerance for movies being depressing; if you like movies based on Danielle Steele / Catherine Cookson books, you'll probably really enjoy this.  It's nicely made if a little too melodramatic. It's rated 12A (UK), presumably for the violence and sex scenes (which were a shade stronger than you'd expect in this rating of film).  If you like this sort of film then I think it's a good example of the genre; if not, you'll probably find the long sequence of tortuous nearly but not quite finding each other scenes too lengthy to hold your interest.  I fall more towards the latter category, though I can still appreciate that this is a well-made movie, much better than you'd expect from a TV movie.  (Not that it's inspired me to borrow my mother's Catherine Cookson DVD collection!  I think you can have too much gritty northern realism...)




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