Three Comrades (Borzage, 1938)

My first by director Frank Borzage and I have to admit, it’s not a stellar introduction. Here’s a film devoted to the beautiful friendship of three German soldiers post WWI, seeped in sincerity and love, yet this combination produces no lyrical qualities of distinction. Add a sickly but enchanting woman into the mix and each male is of course heightened by her presence, standing tall against their demons with righteous conviction, and still this material feels dated and too melodramatic. You can’t help but root for the characters since their moments together truly feel authentic, as if each cares for the other equally. But in a marriage, or in a political spectrum, all relationships do not end happily, nor do people die directly after doing the honorable thing, and this notion is so far from Borzage’s characters there’s not even a hint of a complicated outside world (just rioters in the street yelling aimlessly). While refreshing at first (God knows we get enough torrid affairs and backstabbing in modern media), Three Comrades feels as oblivious to life’s lessons and contradictions as it’s characters. I couldn’t help but think of my favorite Sirk films with this Borzage. I wanted to scream to the rafters, hey Frank, one can pour on the sugary romance and still envelop the audience with the complexities brewing under the surface. Maybe I like my film romances a little more tormented than Three Comrades has to offer.

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