Arch of Triumph (1948)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - War Romance  |   Release Date - Mar 1, 1948 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Without its stars, Arch of Triumph would be a terribly dull reduction of Erich Maria Remarque's complex novel into a standard Hollywood soap opera. Truth to tell, it's the kind of novel that is very hard to bring to the screen, for it features a very large cast of characters with many different, though interconnected, storylines. This density and volume are crucial to the novel's success, but trying to translate that accurately to the screen would result in a six-hour movie. So the makers of Arch did what seems the only practical thing -- concentrated on the main storyline and included only a handful of the extraneous characters. But reducing the story to its bare essentials removes the poetry and richness, leaving a plot that is perhaps of some interest but which is presented in fairly bold strokes, while making the characters into stock figures we've come across many times before. Fortunately, Charles Boyer is in very fine form as the doctor who must sacrifice love for his higher mission, and he deserves credit for keeping Arch alive. As his would-be paramour, Ingrid Bergman is a bit off her form; she's as luminous as ever and certainly as skillful, but she doesn't seem to quite connect with the character on a gut level. Charles Laughton is very far off the mark as the Nazi villain, but Louis Calhern is aces as the doorman who was once a proud Russian soldier. Lewis Milestone's direction is adequate, but much more is needed. However, he does get a grand assist from the beautiful chiaroscuro cinematography of Russell Metty.