Sincerity and simplicity shine through every foot of this oversized modern version of the Chaucer epic tale. Here is rare beauty.
Without belittling the highly imaginative genius inspiring the two directors, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, first honors go to Erwin Hillier, whose camerawork is superb. Nothing more effective by way of a time transition shot has been conceived than the way he carries his audience through nine centuries in a few seconds. Beginning with a close-up of a hooded falcon on the wrist of an ancient Canterbury pilgrim (400 years before Columbus discovered America), he follows the graceful bird as it soars aloft on speedy wings. When it becomes a mere speck, it turns and comes gliding back. On coming nearer, it is seen to be a Spitfire.
Sheila Sim is the sole femme in the story. As a London shop girl, turned farmeret for the duration, she turns in a polished performance. Although giving the American GI all the best of it, there is an equally well-drawn characterization, the British tank sergeant, done so well by Dennis Price. For him the cathedral works a miracle.
Star of the film, Eric Portman, gives a splendid, restrained performance as a small-town justice of the peace. Four miracles occur in this story, one to each of the four principal characters.