Domini Enfilden, who was raised in a convent, withdraws to North Africa after the death of her father to try to find herself. There, at the edge of the Sahara, she takes up with the Russian-French Boris Androvsky. They go riding together in the desert, fall in love, and even get married. But their happiness is abruptly interrupted when Boris reveals the secret he’s been keeping; he was a monk, who fled his Trappist monastery after suffering a crisis of faith … The melodrama was severely condemned by Catholics. Much of the financing for the film came from John Hay Whitney, a major investor in Technicolor and it was one of the first three-colour productions to use exterior scenes to enhance the story. Shot at great expense in the Mojave Desert, the subtle use of colour and consciously soft contrast turn the location into a spiritual landscape onscreen that perfectly reflects the changing emotional states of the protagonists, with a palette and illumination that is reminiscent of the Dutch and Flemish painters of the 16th and 17th century. Cinematographers Harold Rosson and W. Howard Greene received a special Academy Award, the first Oscar ever given for colour cinematography.
by Richard Boleslawski
with Marlene Dietrich, Charles Boyer, Basil Rathbone