Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Snake Pit (1948)

Olivia de Havilland At Her Best

- Mentally sick people used to be lowered into snake pits a long time ago, thinking that the shock of it all would cure them of their insanity....

Virginia Cunningham (Olivia de Havilland) sits on a park bench, looks around and realizes that she is in a mental hospital and has no idea how she got there. People seem to know her name and she seems to remember their voices, but she is lost in a state of confusion. "You're sick," they tell her - but she does not feel sick. "I'm you're husband," one man says - but she does not know the man....

Very much ahead of its time in many different ways, The Snake Pit (1948) is a great film about one woman's struggle to get well and put her life back together. The film's trailer exclaims Virginia Cunningham is "certainly the most challenging role - ever played by a woman."

Ah yes, 1940s sexism.... Cute.

The role is indeed challenging for any actor and Olivia de Havilland rises to this extraordinary challenge, giving one of her very best performances as Virginia. De Havilland simply excels in the role - very explosive and bringing out the confused and scared as well as the kind and caring sides of her character to out of this world levels. She does a great job portraying a very sick woman while being incredibly likable and relatable at the same time.

While de Havilland is indeed the MVP of The Snake Pit, the entire film is great. The audience is captivated from beginning to end with this well-written and mysterious story, but also the excellent picture that goes along with it (and I personally enjoyed the use of Dvorák's 9th Symphony in the film as well).

Simply put; lead by an outstanding performance from Olivia de Havilland, The Snake Pit is quite a great and interesting film.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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