I’ve spent my life hearing trivia and quotes from this epic film and so I thought it high time that I formed an opinion. Firstly what struck me was how quickly the time passed. I never once felt bored in the whole of this film’s runtime. I feel like this is an art lost to modern Hollywood, the ability to engage an audience consistently. Even earlier this year I found myself wondering whether Zero Dark Thirty really needed to take so much time yet I happily sat riveted to my seat during the whole of this, Giant and Lawrence of Arabia – and I could happily do so all over again.
What makes this film so appealing is its faith to life. While it covers a huge amount of history, social and political upheaval, I believe that despite all this it remains a human story. Life has not stopped because of the war, if anything the war is merely an inconvenience to life; babies are born, lovers leave each other and friends disappoint. These are the staples of every great tragedy and Gone with the Wind has these in spades.
I found it poignant watching this film with history on my side. For a film produced in 1939 it is somewhat eerie to have such a strong message against war and the senseless waste of human life – a waste that would once more ravish the planet in the years to come. One can only imagine how many lives like those of Scarlett, Rhett and Melanie were ripped apart so soon after audiences so lamented for these characters.
The film itself is no mean feat, containing some of the most developed and believable characters ever committed to celluloid. Perhaps its greatest achievement is creating such a boundless supply of empathy for our heroine, Scarlett O’ Hara. By all accounts a thoroughly dishonest and mean woman, she manipulates men to her advantage with no regard to their feelings or those of the women she calls sisters yet the films lens is forgiving, she is a wounded animal, fighting in the only way she can, rather than a selfish and self-indulgent social climber.
The script is gloriously light in places, kindly mocking the very people it raises to the level of “true Americans” but never losing intensity where it is needed. The repartee between Scarlett and Rhett never falters. Even when they fight it is with an ultimate understanding of one another, a bond that is accepted, rather than understood by either party.
I was asked recently whether a story loses its meaning once its history is long past and society has healed. I believe that Gone With the Wind proves this untrue. In a world still torn by war and divided on too many counts to name it is still all-important to not miss out on what life is truly offering you. Even if you do not understand why it is being offered.