Dark Journey (1937)

Sweden is a small country, at least in terms of population, and very much less significant than we would perhaps sometimes like to think ourselves.

As a Swede, it interests me very much to see how foreigners’ prejudices about us are reflected when Swedes or Sweden are mentioned in popular media. Not only is it amusing to see what others think about us; it is also sobering to realize that our own prejudices are probably quite as gross and exaggerated.

Sweden is quite often mentioned in foreign movies (an entire web site, Alla Talar Svenska, is devoted to the subject). In fact, if we had to give out all the Nobel prizes that have been awarded in movies, the Nobel committee would go broke in a matter of minutes. But it is rare indeed to find a foreign film where most of the action is set in Sweden. British Dark Journey (1937) is such a film.

Vivien Leigh in Dark Journey (1937)

Dark Journey was made at a time when Europe was preparing for the coming World War II. The dark clouds were plainly visible, yet it would not do to openly criticize a foreign power. But it was perfectly acceptable to make a historical movie, so several World War I dramas were made around this period. Thus could the Germans be made the enemy without actually pointing a finger.

Vivien Leigh, before she became famous in Hollywood, plays French girl Madeleine who owns an expensive clothes shop in Stockholm. She meets Conrad Veidt who plays a German agent on a mission for his country. In spite of their countries being at war, the two start to fall in love. Entaglements ensue, both at the personal and international levels.

Dark Journey is not a remarkable film by any means, but it is not bad either. From what I can tell, several sets and situations actually reflect what upperclass Stockholm might have looked like in the 1910s (though except for some mood-setting shots of Stockholm just at the beginning, nothing is filmed on location). The actors deliver what they are expected to, and the story is original enough to keep the interest up all the way to the end. The best thing about it may be the excellent soundtrack by Richard Addinsell. Too bad this was probably never released on record.

This film is best enjoyed with a few glasses of ice-cold punsch, a Swedish liqueur which was popular at the time when this movie is set. As far as I can remember, “Skål!” is the only Swedish word spoken in the film.

Vivien Leigh and Conrad Veidt in Dark Journey (1937)

Dark Journey
Download link
Year: 1937
Running time: 1 h 16 min
Director: Victor Saville
Stars: Conrad Veidt, Vivien Leigh
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (720×616)
Sound quality: Acceptable
Best file format: Cinepack (700 M)

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4 responses to “Dark Journey (1937)

  1. The best thing of Dark Journey is Conrad Veidt’s enormous talent and Vivien Leigh’s unique beauty. The music is, indeed, another precious asset. As for the film being good or bad, please take into consideration that it was cut a lot from the original and what you see is a fragmentary form. I uploaded a little longer version on YouTube on my Conrad Veidt channel. I am a great fan and collector of Conrad Veidt and, among others, I have dozens of original movie stills from Dark Journey, some of them from the deleted scenes. By the way, good luck with your blog. I appreciate your work, as I am doing something similar with my own blog.

    • I think Leigh is more than beautiful in this film; I think she does a really good job acting. And I agree that Veidt is very good too. I did not mean to make it sound as if they were mediocre, only that for me the acting is not the main reason why this is an interesting film. So thanks for offering some fresh perspective. That is always welcome.

  2. I like this movie very much, and to me it is somewhat related to ‘The Spy in Black’ and ‘Contraband’, which also stars Conrad Veidt, with Valerie Hobson. Very nice blog.

    • I notice that both the films you mention were directed by Michael Powell, who is always great. So I will probably try to watch them some time, although neither is at the Internet Archive.

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