Already filmed five times before (including an early 1931 sound version), Tolstoy's novel "Resurrection" was also producer Samuel Goldwyn's second-last, grand effort to make a star out of Anna Sten. Hollywood lore portrays the Ukranian-born actress as a kind of Garboesque Pia Zadora of the Silver Screen, whose striking features were poor substitutes for any genuine talent, but she's quite fine as the peasant girl who nearly loses her one true love to the trappings of a bourgeois class system.
At 81 minutes, "We Live Again" moves along at breakneck speed, although director Rouben Mamoulian often interjects lengthy montages between the film's rather sparse dialogue sequences. A standout - albeit incredibly indulgent - follows Frederic March's overtures to Anna Sten in a Russian Orthodox cathedral, and richly captures the atmosphere and nuances of the religious ceremony. Beautifully shot by Gregg Toland, it's one of the rare instances where the film takes on the novel's epic tone, using visual subtleties in place of actual dialogue. MGM's DVD offers a decent transfer from a clean print, and a good mono soundtrack.
The screenplay is also credited to three writers, although Thornton Wilder and Paul Green did more tweaking after Preston Sturges' efforts to add some 'lightness' and subtle humour were fulfilled, and the class struggles were sharply defined. Given the anti-socialist tone Hollywood was to exploit during, and after WWII, it's admittedly shocking to see a major production that glorifies a philosophy of material and social equality: in the end, March can only achieve nobility by abandoning all traces of his bourgeois life, and the film's closing scenes reflect a rare, overtly pro-Soviet ideology in a Hollywood production.
After her final film for Goldwyn, "The Wedding Night," in 1935, Sten's film appearances rapidly dwindled, relegating the one-time leading lady to a historical footnote. The following year, however, Mamoulian would make a major leap in film history by directing the first three-strip Technicolor feature film, "Becky Sharp."
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan
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