The Search (1948)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - War Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 23, 1948 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - Switzerland, USA  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Fred Zinnemann's semi-documentary film on the plight of WWII orphans has moments of banality, but remains a sobering meditation on the incalculable damage wrought by war with a startlingly fresh performance by Montgomery Clift. The filmmakers' decision to divide the film into two sections -- one, a relatively detached documentary complete with voiceover narration about the UN's relief work with the children, and another dealing with Clift's relationship with the boy Ivan Jandl -- gives the film a somewhat uneven quality despite the virtues of both approaches. Although many of the children are death camp survivors, their experiences are touched upon only by inference, with the desperate escape from the ambulance a register of their unabated terror. The naturalness and absence of cliché in Clift's performance, which lends an unforced credibility to his efforts to care for the boy, was a striking departure at the time and would become highly influential with other actors. Clint Eastwood, strangely enough, has cited this as the performance that had the greatest impact on his own career. Indeed, Clift's presence is so strong that compared with the work of the opera star Jarmilia Novotna, who plays the boy's mother, it seems strange that the boy should finally be reunited with her.