Red Tent, The (1969)

The Red Tent (1969), directed by Mikhail Kalatozov.

In 1928, General Umberto Nobile (Peter Finch) led a disastrous airship expedition to the North Pole. Forty years later he has many sleepless nights and convenes panels of ghosts to try and judge him over and over. The story is told in flashbacks during one of these long nights.

It's an expensive, elaborate effort at mixing together several plot lines: (1) the expedition and survival story itself, (2) the multinational rescue effort, (3) a brief love story with Claudia Cardinale, and (4) the General's guilt and desire to justify his decisions.

Interleaving these lines tends to drain the drama from the survival story, which is the best part, although strangely undeveloped given all the trouble they went through to film it. The film was a joint Italian/Russian effort and there is a subplot on the rescue from the Russian side. Some gorgeous arctic aerial photography.

According to the wikipedia article, production was contentious because the producer wanted more scenes for his wife, Cardinale. You can spot these and they are Dumb with a capital "Duh".

Sean Connery is a low-key Amundsen, the famous explorer who died during the rescue attempt. His body was never found. The ghost of Amundsen tells Nobile he must forgive himself.

Ennio Morricone score. Very rough dubbing of the dialogue.

Adventure and survival stories make me think about national character: how do different cultures view themselves, and how do they present themselves when faced with extreme conditions? Here, the Italians seem emotional and the lone Swede is suicidal. The Russian rescuers are hard working and warm hearted. Anglo-Saxons would (no doubt) have been more stoic and systematic.