(1951)4Craig ButlerThe Browning Version is an emotionally wrenching exploration of a sad and defeated failure, but which ultimately (and surprisingly) becomes uplifting through the catharsis it evokes. Its stage origins are transparent; indeed, director Anthony Asquith almost goes out of his way to emphasize those origins, and with good reason. This is the story of a stuffy, closed-off, empty man whose classroom is a claustrophobic trap for his students; Asquith knows that by opening up the film as little as possible, he can drive home the sterility and artifice of the man and the trapped feeling he inspires in others. But Asquith doesn't allow the film itself to become stodgy; Desmond Dickinson's clever cinematography makes good use of the closed-in locations, finding variety and character without distracting from the claustrophobia. Asquith's attention to the text and the actors also pays off with sterling performances from all involved, but with a truly startling and riveting turn from Michael Redgrave in the lead. Indeed, Redgrave virtually is the film; his work here is nothing short of sensational, grabbing the viewer with a quiet intensity that is all the more remarkable considering that the character's deep, inner passion is buried so far deep inside him. There are layers upon layers upon layers in Redgrave's Crocker-Harris, one of the richest performances put upon the screen. There is so much going on with Redgrave that even the simplest of scenes has shades of hidden meaning. Redgrave aside, Browning is an excellent film; with Redgrave, it's an extraordinary one.