The Mortal Storm (Borzage, 1940)
The Mortal Storm is one of my favorite directors doing one of my least favorite genres. The Nazi regime has to be the hardest subject one could possibly approach. 99% of the time the Nazis are presented as robot-like vessels of hate – for obvious reasons. But this approach really does leave a director with no choice but to make a political film. But Borzage is able to mix a love story into the time period when Hitler is on the rise, and he does so well.
This isn’t as strong as Borzage’s other love stories. With such a strong historical event hovering over everything, it wasn’t possible to make this as timeless as his others feel. The central relationship also moves along rather smoothly with no real conflict or pain, making it slightly less interesting. But Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan go good together, and the excitement on her face when, at one point, she learns he is back from an extended absence makes up for most of it. The Nazi stuff (outside of a couple of deeply affecting, standout scenes) could mostly be replaced by a guy holding a big sign that says ‘Nazis = Bad’. 8/10