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Film / The Captive Heart

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Who wouldn't?

Lt. Stephen Harley: Last Christmas I had my first concert. It was where I met Caroline.
Capt. Karel Hasek, alias Geoff Mitchell: Last Christmas I was in Dachau Concentration Camp. Christmas Eve a new batch of prisoners came in. One of them brought me news of my family. They'd been caught giving food to a Polish Jew. They were taken out and shot. My father, mother, all of them.

The Captive Heart is a 1946 British war film directed by Basil Dearden, starring Michael Redgrave and his real life wife, Rachel Kempson. The film tells the story of a Czech concentration camp surviver, Capt Karel Hasek (Redgrave), who has to assume the identity of a dead British soldier named Geoff Mitchell and join British prisoners of war to avoid execution. Part of living under his false identity involves writing letters to the Mitchell's wife so that the prison authorities won't suspect. On receiving his letters, Mitchell's estranged wife, Celia (Kempson), begins to hope for a reconciliation, unaware that the man writing to her is not her husband.


  • Dead Person Impersonation: Karel assumes the identity of Mitchell to join British prisoners of war and avoid execution.
  • Death by Childbirth: Evans' wife's fate. She knew of the risk but decided to proceed with the pregnancy because she wanted to make her family proud.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pvt. Matthews volunteers to give up his place on the repatriation list in Karel's favour so that the latter can leave for England before the prison authorities identify him as a concentration camp escapee. Matthews also nearly loses his life in attempting to substitute Karel's name in place of his, when a guard dog detects him sneaking around in the night and the guards open fire. He is only just rescued by Karel.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Matthews, a burglar in civilian life, steals Evans' cigarette and insults him about his Welsh ethnicity, but eventually becomes friends with Evans and ultimately saves Karel's life - see Heroic Sacrifice above.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Redgrave's perfect RP is Justified, as Karel's father was in the Czech embassy and Karel spent his childhood in London.
  • Po W Camp: The setting for the majority of the film.
  • The Stoic: Karel tends to express very little emotion, partly because he is wary about being detected by the Germans, partly because he feels left out from the camaraderie of the British soldiers, and partly because he is numbed from the loss of his entire family to Nazi atrocities.
    • Not So Stoic: He does show more emotion when he meets Celia, confessing that he has fallen in love with her. Also, the last scene shows him laughing excitedly on the phone with Celia.