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Director: Compton Bennett


Writers: Noëlle Henry, John Cresswell

(from the novel Je ne suis pas une héroïne

also known as Der Abend in der Oper by Noëlle Henry)

Rôle: Colonel Günther von Hohensee

Release Date: 18 April 1952


Synopsis: In Belgium, during World War II, a young music student and her mother are the only ones left of a large family, the men having all been lost in the war against Germany. Their château is partially taken over by the German Military Commandant. The girl, Nicole, has an intense hatred for the Germans and tells the Commandant, Colonel von Hohensee, so. When they discover they have a mutual interest in music, especially the piano, they come to know each other better and fall in love. They know it is an impossible situation - especially the girl who is forced by the underground to steal documents and information from him - and realise their romance can only end in tragedy.

Comment: The working title of the film was 'Sunset at Morning' (see Picturegoer article of 26 May 1951 below). The film was made at Elstree studios but a unit went out to Belgium to film various outdoor scenes. The film unit based themselves in the town of Léau, a small town with a population of 2,000 about 45 miles east of Brussels. Some of the scenes were at the Château de Sterrebeek, just outside Brussels, which stood in for the Château de Malvines in the film. The Château de Sterrebeek, built in 1761 by Jean-Antoine Ories in a classicist style was rebuilt in 1908 by Maurice Despret in a neoclassical style. The castle and the gatehouse are protected as a monument and the entire park protected as a landscape in 1958.

So Little Time 1952 poster

Château de Sterrebeek/Kasteel van Sterrebeek today

Maria Schell & Marius Goring in publicity photo for So Little Time 1952

Behind the scenes photos of filming in England and Belgium

Marius Goring said that other than the Powell and Pressburger films, this one was his favourite."A touching little film," said Goring, "my favourite apart from the Powell films. Maria Schell was beautiful and extremely good. It was too soon after the war and people thought every German was a horror...its timing was wrong. A year later, and it would have been all right".

Availability: DVD (Network) Release Date: 9 November 2015.

Der Abend in der Oper Cover

Background: I was able recently (December 2020) to obtain a 1954 edition in German of the book upon which this film is based, under the title ‘Der Abend in der Oper'. The Swiss author, Noëlle Henry wrote this novel in 1937. But it was not published until 1942, and several editions were out of print in Switzerland in quick succession. Due to the circumstances, the book remained virtually unknown in Germany. 

A few changes were made from the novel to the film version. It was set in WWI not WWII and in France not Belgium. Nicole’s name in the book is Erica de Bois-Dauphin, Günther’s first name is Dietrich and he is a major, not a colonel. Gerard’s name was originally Olivier and the housekeeper is called Céline. The character of cousin Philipe is Nicole/Erica’s uncle Gilles.

It took a few days to translate but it was well worth the effort. Beautifully written and very touching.

So Little Time article in the Picturegoer 26 May 1951

Colonel von Hohensee gives Nicole a piano lesson

Reviews: From an excellent review on IMDb by australiafelix: "So...on one level, So Little Time is about a profoundly ethical question: is it treason to love one's enemy during war? On another, it is about the most fatal kind of fatal romance: when enemies fall in love. Both parties know it will end badly, but...the heart wants what the heart wants. Was it Plato who said love is a kind of madness? For that reason Schell and Goring are compelling and believable as Nicole and Günther - particularly Goring, who struggles with his feelings for Nicole. The film also makes it clear that like many Wehrmacht German officers at that time, Günther perceives himself as a professional soldier, not a Nazi. We realise this in the final scene".

So Little Time review by Freda Bruce Lockhart in The Tatler 30 April 1952
So Little Time review by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times 28 July 1953
So Little Time review by Mae Tinée in the Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) 10 November
So Little Time review in the Montrose Standard 18 December 1952
So Little Time review in The Times 21 April 1952
So Little Time review by Marjory Adams in The Boston Globe 27 March 1956
So Little Time review by Kate Cameron in the Daily News New York 28 July 1953
So Little Time review by C.A. Lejeune in The Observer 20 April 1952
So Little Time review by Henry Ward in The Pittsburgh Press 3 July 1954
So Little Time review by Campbell Dixon in The Daily Telegraph 21 April 1952
So Little Time review in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette 7 June 1952
So Little Time cinema advert in The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) 20 November 1953
So Little Time article in The Tatler 1 August 1951