• Time has been kind for David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter. It is no longer burdened by coming out during the changing of eras in the early 1970s with The New Hollywood taking over and a new type of British film as well (think about this film coming out the same year as Nicolas Roeg’s Performance).
  • This is Lean’s follow-up to 1965’s Doctor Zhivago. Lean made only sixteen (16) films total. These are lengthy running times, careful large-scale productions and justifiably extended gestation periods. This is 200 minutes long and features a ridiculously handsome production (David Kehr calls it “overproduced” which is just a term I have never liked).
  • Sara Miles plays Rosy. “You’re restless, Rosy” – from Robert Mitchum’s Charles character. She is a difficult protagonist to get behind and that accounts for some of the mixed reaction to the film.
  • This film was shot in Ireland and brought back Lean’s team from Lawrence of Arabia. The music is from Maurice Jarre, the photography is from Freddie Young, and Robert Bolt writes the screenplay.
  • This is shot in glorious 65mm photography. Young and Lean capture the clouds, waves, beaches and cliffs (winner of Best Cinematography). Like Lawrence (clearly the same auteur) the characters are often portrayed in long shot like one sequence early with just Miles and her umbrella on the beach and another with Miles and Mitchum together.

shot in crisp 65mm

a sublime use of the long shot

  • Set in 1916
  • The is Lean’s penultimate film- and really for more than a decade it seemed like this was it. Lean made A Passage to India as his last effort in 1984.

Lean’s pictorial triumph here is not resigned to just the long shot exteriors- on the wedding night between Charles and Rosy there is a beautiful little pink/red glow on the window at night.

  • The casting of Mitchum is curious. It works partially. This is certainly against type as Mitchum plays an Irishman, a timid, academic Beethoven admirer who is an amateur florist and whose wife turns him into a cuckold. One certainly understands why Mitchum would want this prize of a role (especially this late in his career).

Lean may not have been trendy by 1970- but the work speaks for itself

the surrealism sequences feature the film’s finest cinematic paintings

Christopher Jones plays Major Doryan and one of the standout sequences in the film is Doryan getting off the bus into this sleepy little seaside town at the one-hour mark. There is this great stone marker set piece. Lean (with Young and Marre) make Doryan look like a hero without a single word (or really any acting).

  • There is another marvelous scene involving Jones at the 77-minute mark as his post traumatic stress disorder kicks in combined with flashback splices.
  • There is a cinematically rich silent sequence at the 83-minute mark when Doryan and Rosy are thinking of each other after their kiss.

The white Madonna lily flowers in the foreground with Miles in the background at the 86-minute mark—Doryan emerges with the blue day for night in the background on the hill.

director of photography Freddie Young won Best Cinematography three times- Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and Ryan’s Daughter– all David Lean films

  • The heather sequence is next in the forest. All combined- this is a ten-minute sequence with less than 10 words—pure cinema—and Lean’s camera tilts up to look through the trees after their love making.
  • Undoubtedly, one of the few remaining films by 1970 to have an intermission. Jarre’s music does sound like a riff on his Zhivago (a magical score) at maybe 60% strength.
  • Like Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter pits the personal drama with the political backdrop (here rebels against the British).
  • Massive waves slapping up on the rocks with hundreds of people in this Irish community running around helping the rebels.
  • At the 152-minute mark- Doryan in silhouette on the hill
  • Towards the very end of the film at the 183-minute mark Lean attempts to recreate the famous match transition from Lawrence of Arabia. Here Doryan watches the sun go down and the match goes out.
  • Trevor Howard plays Father Collins and Leo McKern plays Ryan. Both equip themselves well. John Mills’ Michael is a regrettable part of the movie- it is not really Mills fault- but this film is improved with this character removed.
  • Highly Recommend – top ten of the year quality