A Great Year in Film – 1957

Well, as one might say, film techniques may become dated, but their messages do not.

1957 was a year perhaps un-extraordinary in most categories.  In the US, Eisenhower was president, the Cold War was slowly escalating, and Leave it To Beaver aired on television depicting the ideal life of the average American.  The Hollywood Production code, too, was in full force to restrict would-be auteurs from creating their finest.  Playwrights were able to avoid such strict censorship, as seen in Eugene O’Neil’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, published in ‘56 and winning the Pulitzer in ‘57.

However, around the world, filmmakers were pumping out soon-to-be classics, and thereby pushing the limits of film.

Here is a short list of some of the masterpieces that saw their advent that year.

Seventh Seal – Sweden – Ingmar Bergman

A haunting meditation on life and death placed in Feudal Sweden.

Knight and Death

Wild Strawberries – Sweden – Ingmar Bergman

His second masterpiece in one year; an elderly man travels to Lund to receive an honorary degree and on the way revisits and examines much of his life.

Criterion Cover Wild Strawberries

Throne of Blood – Japan – Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s vision of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in feudal Japan.

Toshrio Mifune being Toshiro Mifune being Macbeth

Bridge on the River Kwai – Great Britain – David Lean

A World-War II POW epic about a group of Brits in the Far East.

Nights of Cabiria – Italy – Federico Fellini

Fellini’s final film containing large amounts of his Italian Neo-realist roots, concerning a prostitute and hope.


Kanał  (finished in ‘56 but widely seen in ‘57) – Poland – Andrzej Wajda

The second film in Wajda’s World War II trilogy, about a group of resistance fighters in the Warsaw Uprising – the first, and one of the few, films touching upon this topic; The Pianist, a more recent film by fellow Pole Roman Polanski, is also an example.

Viva Polonia

Paths of Glory – USA – Stanley Kubric

One of  Kubrick’s earlier films, avoiding the censors which he would later help to break.  A World War I film about injustice.


Twelve Angry Men – USA – Sidney Lumet

And finally, another American film; based on the play of the same title, it is concerning a jury debating whether or not to convict the defendant in a murder case.


What else was happening in 1957?:

The beat generation is at its height and Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” is published.

The first major arrest of the Mafia takes place after years of denying its existence.

The National Guard is in Arkansas called to prevent black children from entering a school.

Russia launches the Sputnik 1, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite.


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Categories: Best Of Lists

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