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Impressions: How Green Was My Valley

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While I have not read the book yet, the film version itself left me breathless. How Green Was My Valley is one of those movies that has "instant classic" written all over it. The story on its own is timeless and speaks to both the heart and mind, but when it is told through John Ford's extraordinary directing, it becomes a true cinematic masterpiece.

Set in 19th century Wales, the movie follows the hardships and life lessons of a boy growing up in a small mining town. Huw, now a man of 50 years, recounts about childhood as a boy growing up in this valley town, while he packs to leave the valley forever. There are several themes present in the story, which are relatable to everyone and touch the heart. The most central themes however are about love and change.

Huw recalls how his Father will never die because he is always with him. This narrated memory comes at a powerful visual moment, when after a mining shaft accident, the mining elevator rises to the surface to reveal Huw cradling his dead father. I was very saddened at that moment because after getting to know Huw's character, I understood how much his father meant to him. His father had always wanted a better life for Huw, trying desperately to keep him going to school, but in the end, Huw went to work as a miner, following in his father's footsteps. While one by one Huw's brothers migrated to overseas countries, Huw remained. Now, as a 50-year old man, Huw confesses that his valley is no longer green and he must leave and never return.

Cinematically, the views, scenery, and cinematography are exquisite and help to tell the tale and amplify the central themes. At the beginning of the film we can see how clean and pure the countryside is; we are happy to walk through this cheerful airy town. However, towards the end the scenes get darker. By the end of the movie, the town is engulfed in black smoke as the mineshaft goes through several explosions. This visual presentation perfectly exemplifies how things have changed over the course of a few years. What was once light and pure is now dark and dirty.

The theme of change for the worse is something we can all relate to. It struck me personally and reminded me of my years growing up in the Soviet Union, where things that once seemed simple gradually became complex and difficult to manage. Huw's green valley town and its gradual spoiling is symbolic of how we lose our childhood innocence as we pass through in stages to becoming adults.

Another theme strongly present in the movie revolves around false love. A very memorable scene in this film underscores this theme. During a wedding ceremony, Angharad, Huw's sister, marries the son of C. Evans, the coalmine owner. While it is a wedding, the mood and ambience depicted resembles a funeral more than a wedding. As they leave the chapel arm in arm, newly married, the feelings of disgust, despair, and regret are clearly visible

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