Tommy's Overture 1: Our Hearts Were Young and Cluster Bombed
A Film By Ken Russell TOMMY by "The Who"
The opening shot of Tommy is stunning. I was about 10 years old when I first saw Tommy and the first fifteen minutes or so, as I previously mentioned is where people either can't deal or get pulled right in. For me, as a child, I could see the staging was like an opera as soon as I saw Robert Powell turn around from the full moon passing down in front of him (some say the image is of a fantastical sun, some think this is a moon). The two adults (in reality recently just children themselves) seemed very in love which of course as a kid is "gross!!" As a teen, I got high and laughed at Tommy. "This movie reminds me of my mother" my best friend said at the time we were both tripping. Here I am now and a mother myself and the film has a radically different effect. Now the film to me is very moving despite the grandiose camp.
Robert Powell who also starred as Gustav Mahler and played Jesus Christ for Zefferelli rather convincingly is paired successfully with Ann-Margret who matches his fine, almost petite facial features with her own. As they read a map of the Lake District with Derwentwater and St.Herberts island ( the setting for Beatrix Potter's 'The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin') in the back ground, they are young and and in love forever. The film quality here is like velvet with love making in waterfalls and blossoms billowing down as they go for round two. The diorama effect I previously mentioned has not begun yet as this is a very romantic holiday and must flow from one inter-war oil painting to another.
To many viewers the waterfall is clearly where Tommy is conceived out of love and even if it is only an assumption by the audience it is an important one. Tommy is a wanted child and is created by two people who love each other let sadly don't know themselves yet. (Perhaps, Captain Walker knows who he is through duty?) We should not forget that Walker is a Captain and the possibility of going off to war was always a given. Were this left many young women and children was in a kind of hellish limbo always disguised by the mantle of "soldiering on" and "manning up". There were only letters to exchange while people waited. Tommy is a quintessentially English story and Pete and Ken are making a clear statement in the film about an entire generation of indigenous Brits (many still in their teens) who was forced to make emotional and physical sacrifices and the even younger children who were often left to pick up the pieces and negotiate with needy adults while they themselves were still helpless. These moments in the Lake District are what Nora will seek to recapture her entire life to feel human.
(Note: all photos can be enlarged and should be as this film is cinematic magic. A huge thank you in advance to American Buddha who has a beautiful Tommy film study page and who provided the screen caps of Ken's masterpiece.)