MovieChat Forums > Of Human BondageĀ (1964) Discussion > Novak is brilliant in this film, but the...

Novak is brilliant in this film, but the movie is agonizing to view


It's just too painful to watch Novak's slow deterioration in this movie. She's so irresistible, so captivating throughout the film, and to see her come to a tragic end is unbearably sad.

She's the only reason to watch this film -- but oh, what a reason.

Sadly, one doesn't seem much of her legendary curvy figure -- the most gorgeous figure than any Hollywood actress has ever possessed. But the few glimpses that are shown are breathtaking.

The main male actor was just dreadful though -- so stiff and wooden. I pity Novak for having to act off such a cardboard cutout. He never seemed passionate, never seemed in love.

And that scene where he rejects Novak's advances is simply not credible. No man could resist anyone looking that gorgeous.

That said, I think the film makes a very frank and honest psychologial point. Novak is attracted to the main character at first, and is genuine in her acceptance of his proposal, until they sleep together. The subtext at that point is quite clear: his sexual performance is just awful, too awful for her to contemplate being romantically bonded to this man. That's why she takes off. And in every future meeting they have, she comes to him out of necessity, but never again can think of him as a romantic prospect, except as an act of gratitude.

Still, for such an intense subject, the film is just too British -- too non-physical, too non-demonstrative -- and the main male character just too unsympathetic. One pities Novak not just for her eventual fate, but for his pomposity and his inhumanness towards her. One wants to step in the movie and strangle him, or ask, "What's wrong with you?"

And as I said, it's just too painful to watch Novak's deterioration. One wants to enter the world of the film and rescue her. As always, Novak makes you care for her character deeply, so it's an agonizing ordeal to see her in a tragic ending. Brilliant performance by an actress who is truly extraordinary.

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I'm sorry that you feel this way about the movie. I think that one of the reasons that Novak was so very good in this movie was because they did not set her up to be just another sexy blond. She can't help that she was so beautiful, but the filmmakers tried not to point it up as the reason Philip falls for Mildred.

Laurence Harvey, who played Philip Carey, was, in my opinion, truly tragic. This character as drawn in the book was supposed to be shy, cold, and insecure. He relies only on his intellect to give himself any kind of self-esteem, and that is the fatal flaw for him. Harvey played him just as he was written.

The fact that you find the film "just too British", is a testament to how well it was made. The author of the book, Somerset Maugham, was also the primary writer for the screenplay (as he was for the films made in '34 and '46). He was British. This story follows a theme that Maugham came back to often in his books. That is, relationships and why different people want to be with each other or not.

But I have to disagree with you about the reason for Mildred not wanting to be with him. Philip needed her more than loved her, though he didn't see the difference. He craved her. In essence he put her into a "bondage" to him. I don't think that it was his sexual performance that drove her behavior. It was his depth of desire. She could feel how much he had to have her. But not just sexually. He wanted her body, mind and soul. She couldn't stand that kind of "love". She never felt for him what he did for her. And she couldn't be, nor did she want to be, his 'everything' in life.

Philip was ready to stop everything that he was doing as a doctor and just spend his time with her. Once his studies got in the way of time with her, he let them drift. In the beginning, she is interested in a fellow who is successful and prosperous, who comes to the cafe.

And yes, Novak's deterioration is painful to watch. Everything that Philip did, lead to her destruction, which was the opposite of what he had hoped for in the beginning. But by close to the ending, it is hard to comprehend why he doesn't care that she is so ill. If he couldn't have her entirely and well, he had to stop his feelings for her. But I think that he knows that there is something left, and he despises that in himself.

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But I have to disagree with you about the reason for Mildred not wanting to be with him. Philip needed her more than loved her, though he didn't see the difference. He craved her. In essence he put her into a "bondage" to him. I don't think that it was his sexual performance that drove her behavior. It was his depth of desire. She could feel how much he had to have her. But not just sexually. He wanted her body, mind and soul. She couldn't stand that kind of "love". She never felt for him what he did for her. And she couldn't be, nor did she want to be, his 'everything' in life.


This is true. People seem to think Mildred is sympathetic and she's not meant to be. She's a monster. If Philip had more self-esteem he'd avoid her like the plague. But he goes back for more and more abuse. Laurence Harvey is brilliant in this film, always underrated especially by us American viewers. I'd agree this is one of Novak's better performances on film, although her accent is inconsistent and even disappears several times. She certainly comes across as the b**ch she is supposed to be. The novel is quite long and a lot of it never makes it into the film versions. It should probably be re-made yet again.

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You think Novak's character is "irresistable"? Wow! She's a flaming sociopath who doesn't give a damn about anyone, all the way to her last breath.

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I'm a big fan of Novak, and she did a good job (but agree w/ one of the poster's above about the inconsistent accent, but ah well). However, I never felt sorry for Mildred. At first I could see she was pretty & sort of charming in her own way, and the fact that all men desired her explained her behavior in that she couldn't help her flirting & knew she could get away w/ anything - & usually did. But when she plays games w/ Philip, uses him repeatedly & then verbally abuses him time & again, destroyed his paintings & things in his apt., brags about sleeping w/ his friend & how they laughed at him, those were all very unsympathetic things to do, no matter how beautiful she was! Especially when all he ever did was show her kindness & care. The part that got me the most, was how she let the baby die, and didn't seem to care at all. I didn't read the book, but as soon as she said the baby was dead, I immediately figured it died b/c she didn't take care of it - not b/c she couldn't - but b/c she Wouldn't! She only cared about herself. I hated her by the end, and I did care very much for Philip - I thought the actor had a nice, quiet charm about him and seemed to carry some internal pain as the character had.

"Are you going to your grave with unlived lives in your veins?" ~ The Good Girl

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Wow, have you got it wrong. Although the theme of the novel and of the film(s) is that we're ALL both users and victims to some degree (all humans experience some such "bondage"), it's EXTREMELY clear in the novel and in the film adaptations that Mildred is much more the selfish and irresponsible user and Philip is the more sympathetic character.

I'm utterly amazed that anyone could get that obvious dynamic so completely turned around and so terribly wrong.

What, was it just due to Novak's physical beauty? Is that it? Is that all?

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Twice now in the past few minutes I go to read something here that appears to be an observation concerning a technical issue with this movie ("... the movie is agonizing to view") and learn in the first sentence how the movie ends. Simply typing 'Spoiler" would prevent this from happening. Fortunately this post gave nothing additional away as both posts concern her demise.
A lot of people respond to posts like mine with "Why would you come here and read anything about a movie that you are watching simultaneously ?" A fair point but often I catch things in a movie that I want to see if anyone else has commented on. I avoid anything marked 'Spoiler', pay attention to what the op says in the 'Subject' line so as to avoid spoilers. Nothing in the op's Subject line hints to giving away any of the story .... 'agonizing to view' seems to me to indicate something quite a bit different than 'story'.
Not the end of the world I guess but I think its good to post reminders wherever possible.
*If you click on the word 'Spoiler' just below where you type the 'Subject', all you have to do is then type in the word 'Spoiler' between the brackets that are placed in the space where you type the body of your comment. Its the first thing you need to do before typing your full comment. You can check that you've done it properly by clicking on the word 'Preview' below this box. If done correctly it looks like this:

Spoiler

Roll the cursor over the blacked out space to do final check - if the word 'Spoiler' appears, you've done it correctly. If then satisfied, finish your comment and click 'Post Reply'.
Alternatively, you can also type the word 'Spoiler' then swipe the cursor over the word (highlight), click on the word 'Spoiler' (above this 'comment' box and the web page will insert the proper brackets around the word(s) (or anything you type and then highlight).
For some, its easier to do it this 2nd/alternate way as it can be tricky clicking between the 2 brackets to begin your typing of the word 'Spoiler'.

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My word, you are such a pedantic bore. I hope every movie you watch from hereonout is spoiled for you because you insist on going to imdb while in the middle of watching it.

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Right on, Charcas67! I am so tired of hearing people complaining about spoilers in movies AND TV shows...if someone has missed it, they need to just NOT go to any websites that have anything to do with the movie until AFTER they watch. I often go straight to websites and message boards after a show ends, to see what other people thought, or if anyone thought the same thing as me. When I miss a show, I do not go to any websites or read anything regarding what happened until AFTER I've seen it.

If people don't want to see spoilers, then stay away from websites or magazines that discuss them. That makes more sense, as well as it's a lot easier to do than with those insanely complicated "instructions" suggested above... also, these movies are 50 years old or older, so it's not like it's an end of season cliffhanger or anything... <--has nothing to do with my post, I just thought it was a cute emoticon...hehe

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Were we watching the same movie??? Mildred was NOT "irresistible" or "captivating". She was vile, selfish, slutty and nasty, and didn't have even one redeeming quality about her. What I didn't understand was why this guy kept going back for more and fell all over such a total piece of crap. He was even seeing another lady who wasn't as attractive, but was in love with him and super sweet to him...and he just tossed her away when that sleazy monster came back-to use him once again.

Even the very end, she doesn't apologize for being hateful, just tells him she wants a proper funeral...right up to the very last breath she was still making demands of him and the whipped guy complied. She never rehabilitated herself in any way.

It makes me think of Jenny in "Forrest Gump". She wasn't in love with him but she was kind to him and married him, and made sure her child would be in good hands. I had thought that the baby Mildred had was his but apparently not...and instead of finding a good home for this baby, she let it die. How did it die? She didn't even have any sadness or grief for her child. Terrible, terrible woman! I absolutely hated her by the end of this movie.

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