At an Italian convent near to a concentration camp, the nuns are part of an underground group who help the Jewish children in the camp to escape, an act of courage which Major Spoletti (Ronald Lewis) turns a blind eye to as he likes the nuns. But everything changes when Colonel Horsten (Albert Lieven) of the German army takes over the running of the camp and orders that anyone caught assisting in helping Jewish children escape will be executed. Whilst one nun loses her life and the underground operation nearly discovered the rest of the nuns led by Mother Katharine (Lilli Palmer) continue even when they find their own faith tested by events.
"Conspiracy of Hearts" is the reason why I watch old movies. I had never heard of it before and really only watched it because I saw it starred Sylvia Syms and Ronald Lewis but it left me with so many thoughts going through my head and mostly good ones. From director Ralph Thomas's decision to film in black & white to countless powerful scenes such as when the Jewish children are unable to remember the names of their own parents killed in concentration camps, it leaves a lasting impression on you. And it leaves you with an urge to watch "Conspiracy of Hearts" again, maybe not immediately but at some point in the future.
There is actually quite a lot going on in "Conspiracy of Hearts" and the first thing worth mentioning is the directing of Ralph Thomas and the decision to film in black & white. For a movie released in 1960 it is a brave decision but also the right one because it helps create such a wonderful atmosphere. The simple monochrome look allows the focus to be on the story, the drama and the emotion rather than anything else whilst also helping it to feel older than it is as if it was made closer to WWII.
But the look is just part of the reason why "Conspiracy of Hearts" is so good and the storyline itself is brilliant or at least should I say the events in this storyline because there are many. From the various escapes as children are led out to novice Sister Mitya, played by Sylvia Syms, finding herself the object of Major Spoletti's affections it is packed but it all works. Something simple such as Sister Gerta disagreeing with helping the children escape because it is breaking the law establishes the conflict between head and heart as well as religion and the law. And then there is the powerful ending which without spoiling anything the German's net closes in on the nuns and those who assist them.
On top of this "Conspiracy of Hearts" doesn't feature a bad performance. Lilli Palmer is both beautiful and brilliant as Mother Katharine, getting across the element of becoming almost partisan in her desire to help the children escape whilst Yvonne Mitchell as Sister Gerta gets across the conflict between helping, obeying religious orders and the law. Add to this semi romantic conflict with Sylvia Syms as Sister Mitya trying to control her feelings for Major Spoletti, brilliantly played by Ronald Lewis who really comes into his own during the final scenes.
What this all boils down to is that "Conspiracy of Hearts" is a classic and one which for me deserves more praise and recognition than it gets. Not only is it entertaining with its story of nuns helping Jewish children escape from a concentration camp but it is also emotional as it gets across the way innocent children were affected by war.