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Devizes Festival: The Sound Barrier, Palace Cinema
8:30am Friday 22nd June 2012 in Theatre & Arts
David Lean’s 1952 classic, The Sound Barrier, was a perfect choice for this Diamond Jubilee year.
From its opening shot of the White Cliffs of Dover, the crescendo of Malcolm Arnold music, and flash of jet aircraft through the clouds, to its screenplay by Terence Rattigan (who served in the RAF during the war), we knew that we were in for a nostalgia-fest, putting the Great back into Great Britain.
But it was more than that. It was not just a paeon to courage and duty and the stiff upper lip, it was a thrilling and deeply moving film which brought together the subject – how far do you go to further technological advances at the expense of human life?
It also dealt with how people behave in stressful and difficult conditions, such as wartime, and in the world of high-pressure aeronautical research.
The race against time to break though the sound barrier and produce an aircraft which could win the war was present throughout and created the central drama and excitement of the film.
But it was the wonderful performances which really held the attention.
For example, the contrast between test pilot Nigel Patrick’s breezy courage and sense of honour and aircraft manufacturer Ralph Richardson’s dour, stoic, single-mindedness.
Not surprising that Richardson won a BAFTA for best actor. The scenes between him and his daughter (Ann Todd) were beautifully played, each trying to come to terms with their own grief and ambitions. I won’t say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, but I bet a few people who rushed out before the lights came up were clutching hankies in their hands.
Dee La Vardera