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Seventh Heaven
Seventh Heaven
Frank Borzage
119 min
United States

The film that secured Frank Borzage's reputation as a major stylist (it earned him the very first Academy Award for Direction), Seventh Heaven is one of cinema's most audacious melodramas. Borzage traveled to Paris and researched local details in pre-World War One Montmartre for two months before recreating everything in the studio. Ably assisted by set designer Harry Oliver and cinematographer Ernest Palmer, Borzage transformed a Dickensian social drama into a mystical exploration of the spirit and the flesh. The influence of the variegated chiaroscuro and mysterious spaces of F. W. Murnau, newly arrived in America, is evident throughout. However, the camera movements and the recurring use of stairs - as spatially eloquent as they are metaphorically rich - are uniquely Borzage's. Seventh Heaven was one of the first films made using the Movietone synchronized score and sound system, and it culminates in an operatic fusion of song, gesture, and visionary sentiment.