Personal Affair (1953)

Personal Affair (1953): 3.8/5

Personal Affair is a good but slow-starting British drama about a girl who falls in love with her teacher. In the beginning it just seems like a common crush on a teacher who cares for his students, but it becomes more complicated as the film progresses.

I won’t give up any more than that, because I came in with only this information and ended up being very surprised by many of the plot elements. Let yourself be surprised as well!

The leads here are Leo Genn (the teacher, Stephen Barlow), Gene Tierney (his wife, Kay Barlow) and Glynis Johns (the student, Barbara Vining).

Tierney gives a solid performance here, though not as emotionally impactful as I  know she is capable of from other films.

Leo Genn, who I must admit I hadn’t heard of before, does very well. Glynis Johns is also very good, though she doesn’t have much screen time.

These main characters all give effective performances, but the real stand-out is Walter Fitzgerald, who plays Barbara’s father, Henry Vining. He doesn’t seem quite as distraught as one may expect a parent to be in his situation, but his emotions are very powerful. The character is angry and confused, and Fitzgerald hits those moods right on the head.

This film provides and interesting commentary on society, gossip and scandal. Many scenes are dedicated to showing silent phone calls or on-the-street gossip met by shocked faces, with frantic music playing instead of dialogue.

This technique is very striking, as the music emphasizes just how quickly and chaotically gossip can spread.

It’s also very effective to block out the dialogue. The viewer must infer what they’re saying. Though some of the nature of the gossip is quite obvious based on the plot, the level of scandal assumed by the viewer could vary widely and lead to different perceptions of the film’s action.

Interesting techniques are used outside of sound as well. Most of the shots are fairly standard, but there is a bit of what I know as “double exposure” used. In the darkroom, we layer two negatives to get this effect – a person’s face overlapped with a landscape, for example.

The few unusual techniques used add so much to the film’s overall effect, and it certainly has strong dramatic impact.

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