Borzage continues to wow me with his unique ability to infuse high melodrama with genuine heart and emotion. It is so often difficult for films to find that perfect balance. I admit, it’s a tricky thing to do. How does one portray a fantastically heightened emotional state without being either silly or shrill? The answer can be found in the beautiful frames of Borzage’s 1927 film, Seventh Heaven.
Let me just say, that if more silent films were as good as Frank Borzage’s, I’d watch a heck of a lot more of them. Seventh Heaven is a sort of perfection. Maybe not one of the very best movies I’ve ever seen, but it flows with elegance and stands tall with towering emotion and power. The Borzage method of melodrama and near-deus ex machina endings, a method that on paper sounds quite tedious, plays out effectively. So effectively I actually cried. You know, tears. The watery kind.
The story of Chico the sewer worker and Diane, the poor girl, abused by her sister and left to the streets is a romance of the greatest kind. They come together when they each most need another person to hold on to, and they are torn apart by the outbreak of WWI. Their love is unshakable, and they each bring out the very best in the other.
Where the melodrama of Seventh Heaven succeeds is in its earnestness. There is not a lick of irony in the film and that’s what sells it. I watch the film and I believe in the struggles of these poor people. I believe the love that they share. And I share in their tears when all hope seems lost, only to cry more when it’s discovered that hope can heal all wounds.
I also need to say a bit about Janet Gaynor. She’s amazing. Absolutely stunning. Radiant. Gorgeous. Every emotion on her face is real and drives a stake right through my heart. She slays me. Clearly one of the great actresses of all time, and I could not be happier to have been introduced to her during this marathon.
If you like movies, or love, or people, or if you like to call yourself a human being you owe it to yourself to watch Seventh Heaven. Not because it is the a deep work of art that speaks to the human condition—though it is those things—but because it’s a beautiful, immensely watchable film about the beauty of love and life.