Jean, a deserter from the Colonial Army, hitches a ride into Le Havre looking for a place to hide until he can escape via ship to foreign lands. He ends up in a small isolated shack where he meets Nelly, a young woman whose tough life has forced her to grow up far too fast. Jean and Nelly begin to fall in love with each other but being that she is the object of lust for many men, Jean finds himself stuck between escaping to Venezuela and fighting for Nelly. Marcel Carne's Port of Shadows is a poetic love story that really succeeds at capturing the power of love in ways which many films only dream of. The strength of the film lies in the characters of Jean and Nanny. Each of these characters have lived extremely tough lives and because of this, they seem to have lost almost all hope in life. We routinely hear both of these characters talking about how rotten life and it's plastered all over their faces. It's love which ignites a spark in both of these characters, and while their time together proves to be limited, both Nelly and Jean are able to experience happiness, courtesy of love. Port of Shadows is a very simple film, in terms of narrative, and characters but Carne does a masterful job of not giving away too many details right off the bat. The film takes its time slowly revealing details about the character's past, giving the viewer more and more insight into why both Jean and Nelly specifically, are so damaged. The easiest example of this how it's unclear that Jean is in fact a deserter until more than halfway through the film. Marcel Carne's Port of Shadows is a film soaked in poetic realism that is very effective at showing the transitional quality which love can bring.
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