Friday, January 17, 2020

1917 (The Movie)

Back when there used to be just five Oscar nominees for Best Picture, I sometimes tried to make sure I had seen all five of them before the night of the awards. With more nominees nowadays, that is harder to do. And there are certainly some nominated films that I simply have no interest in seeing. So far I have seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The irishman, Little Women, and now 1917. All four are excellent and deserving of an Oscar. As for the rest, other than perhaps Marriage Story, I simply have little or no interest in seeing them. So I guess I probably won't, which is fine.

I did, however, finally get to see Sam Mendes' fantastic World War I film, 1917. One might have thought we had become surfeited as a society with World War I after its recent four-year centennial, not to mention the long legacy of almost a century of World War I movies. Perhaps World War I was just so horrible an experience and so determinative for all that would happen in the century that has followed that we can never really get enough of it. 

Directed, and produced by Sam Mendes the film is based in part on Mendes' grandfather's story and recounts the mission of two British corporals sent to deliver a message, warnign of a potential ambush after an apparent German retreat. 

It is obviously "the Great War." It is obviously set in France. The Germans are obviously the enemies, etc. But beyond that, the film virtually ignores the geopolitical dimension of the war.  It concentrates entirely on the war's human participants - primarily the two British corporals sent out on a special (and especially dangerous) mission, and others encountered along the way (other British soldiers, the occasional enemy soldier, a French civilian). 

It portrays the devastation wrought upon the French countryside by the war and the devastation of all the participants' lives, and it dramatically captures the sheer terror and unpredictability of war.

From the viewpoint of the collectivity, the nation, a war may be a great success or it may be a disaster. Looked at in individual terms, however, it is always tragic, and it is the individual experience of war's tragedy that is highlighted in this film - along with many individual acts of ordinary and extraordinary heroism, sacrifice, and human kindness along the way

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