Flyboys Film Review


The movie Flyboys, starring James Franco, was made in 2006 in attempts to share the story of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of American volunteers in the French Air Force. 

Before the U.S. entered the First World War, the French were designing and implementing new aviation technology and these men were the first to fly those planes. When the movie began we were introduced to James Franco’s character, Blaine Rawlings, a rancher from Texas on his way to France to escape debt in the states. Once Rawlings makes it to France he finds himself among several other men eager to fly in the war.

Everything takes an unsuspecting turn during a disastrous first mission, which led to an ambush and heavy casualties. Lafayette Escadrille realizes quickly the reality of war and the tone of the movie takes a sombre change. We are then taken from mission to mission alongside the pilots of this unit. I didn’t find anything particularly special about this sequence of scenes. I felt that the depth of the characters wasn’t present and that led to a lack of attachment to them and especially to their deaths.

The following third of the movie depicts the harsh day to day experience of the pilots while being intertwined with a less than satisfying romantic interest in a French farm girl. After several scenes between a man who speaks English and a woman who speaks French, Rawlings ends up whisking her away from her war-torn farm to the safety of Paris where they eventually part ways for good. 

Overall, I found the film to be relatively entertaining while straying from the truth at times it kept a cheesy war movie atmosphere alive throughout its two hours and twenty-minute duration.

Ginny’s Review of “My Boy Jack”

My Boy Jack is a film that is ultimately a tragedy and a critique of the war. Rudyard Kipling (played by David Haig) encourages his son to go to war, only to lose him in the end. This is arguably very predictable, and throughout the entire film, it is obvious what is going to happen. But in a way, maybe this is a good thing, because knowing what is going to happen makes the movie a little less sad- and it is a terribly sad story.

Jack (played by Daniel Radcliffe) is initially excused from military service because of his poor eyesight and the fact that he wears glasses. However, Rudyard is prideful and wants his son to fight in the war. He uses his influence in a war propaganda office to have Jack enlisted into a unit. His mother and sister are devastated by this.

Jack works hard, constantly practicing his shooting, working out, and moving up as a lieutenant. He is excited about leading a platoon. A part of the film that is very historically interesting is when Jack asks the members of his platoon why they joined the war, with varying answers- to see the world, to earn money, duty to King and country, etc. Jack reinforces to the soldiers that they are volunteers, nobody forced them to do this, and that they need to take it seriously. It is so fascinating that the soldiers see this as an adventure, and are not particularly concerned about the dangers.

One of the most striking parts of the film is the unflattering portrayal of the trenches. The trenches are disgusting, and display the reality of the war. The soldiers fight in the rain, suffer from trench foot, and deal with rodents. Scenes of war are juxtaposed against quiet scenes of Kipling’s gorgeous country home, and the contrast has great visual impact. About halfway through the film, Jack visits home and expresses his fears to his father. His father assures him that everything will be alright, which is clear foreshadowing of something tragic to come.

Jack ultimately dies in the Battle of the Somme. At first, his family is told he is missing- while his sister is preparing a care package for him. As soon as this information is received, Kipling’s wife and daughter argue with him about how he should never have let Jack leave, and they enter on a great search for Jack by using their social and political influence. Later, his death is confirmed by a fellow soldier. The scene of the battle and Jack’s death is shown at this part.

Jack’s death is horribly sad because he and his father worked so hard to even get him to fight in the war- and for what? Jack does not receive any glory, he just dies. This serves as a commentary on the war and the masculine pride of the time. I felt that both of the leading actors showed great emotional prowess in their portrayal of these two very complicated men.

The ending is terribly heartbreaking and makes a brilliant cinematic choice. Rudyard recites the poem he has written for his dead son:

“HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind—
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.
Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide.

What makes this particularly tragic is that this is a true story, and the poem reminds the viewer of this, as it is the real poem Rudyard Kipling wrote. This film is not just another war story because it is about someone’s real life experience. While Jack’s death is terribly predictable, it is horribly sad, and serves as evidence that this pointless war took too much from the world. I think it is important to watch this film to experience the real life events and emotions of a World War I soldier and his family. Yes, of course some parts are fictionalized, but Jack was a real person, and his story deserves to be told.

I pledge.
751 words.

Jordan’s Review of “Beneath Hill 60”

Alternative Title: Why I Ugly Cried so Much in Public

Set in late 1916 and 1917, “Beneath Hill 60” follows the incredible true story of Oliver Woodward and the 1st Australian Tunneling Company as they attempt to mine beneath German lines. The film delicately exposes the agonizing reality that was underground warfare in ways beyond simply telling us, the audience, it is so. It whispers warnings of potential threats seemingly into our own ears, transforms the movement in enemy tunnels and the hushed clings of mining materials into goosebumps on our arms, and paints the heaving breaths of the men 90 ft below the surface onto our own bodies. “Beneath Hill 60” is nothing short of an experience—a film done so well it has become tangible and puts its audience on the front lines with its actors.

Lieutenant Oliver Woodward as played by Brendan Cowell

The film opens in on Lieutenant Woodward (played by Brendan Cowell) lacing up his boots in a well-lit room preparing for, what we presume at this point, is some sort of medaling ceremony or recognition for his wartime efforts. Quickly the scene cuts and we refocus in on Woodward, this time caked in grime and sweat, shuffling through the labyrinth of tunnels by candlelight. He becomes lost and employs the help of the increasingly distressed young sapper, Private Frank Tiffin (Harrison Gilbertson). Tiffin leads Woodward to the officer’s dugout where he is met with considerable disdain by the other commanding officers for joining so late in the war. Slowly, and throughout the entirety of the film, Woodward wins over the men and other officers with his natural leadership and apparent skill for mining. The film ends on the factual detonation of 990,000 pounds of explosives and, if for no other reason than pure shock value, hasn’t won over its audience yet, includes a final scene of the surviving characters being decorated in historically correct medals and garb.

Actual photo of the 1st Australian Tunneling Company

Masterfully cutting between scenes of intense action on the front lines, to secondhand experience of the cannonade, to the pre-war life of Oliver Woodward, “Beneath Hill 60” is able to intertwine the confusion and terror that exists in war and translate it into a moving experience for any and all who have the pleasure of watching this film.

Casting, undoubtedly, contributed to the artfulness of the film as well. Brendan Cowell evokes the certain kind of authoritative-but-empathetic air that anyone knowledgeable of Lieutenant Woodward’s story would expect. Frank Tiffin (Harrison Gilbertson), shows the audience the perfect mix of fear and strength that must come from fear in order to cope with the trauma that is the Great War. Jim and Walter Sneddon (Alan Dukes and Alex Thompson) show the unfortunate familial toll in such a way that one cannot help but reach for a box of Kleenex when Jim meets gut-wrenching, tear-jerking demise.

From the gradual widening of the camera lens to depict an exit from the tunnels to the use of the actual box crafted for Woodward in the trenches of the Great War, no aspect of the creation and filming of “Beneath Hill 60” was left unaccounted for. As such, this film not only is able to transport its audience directly to the front lines, but details the story of a much forgotten crowd of heroes.

Private Frank Tiffin (Harrison Gilbertson) during the reenactment of the detonation of 990,000 pounds of ammunition on June 7th, 1917

In a film that hinges so much on the silence of its actors as they dig beneath the enemy territory of Hill 60, this film speaks volumes.

In the words of Lieutenant Oliver Woodward:

“That’s your heart. Feel it? You’re hearing your own heartbeat.”

I suspect more than just a heartbeat, all viewers of this masterpiece we call “Beneath Hill 60” will hear the sniffles from noses, feel the burn of hot tears on faces, and choke on the sobs stemming from their throats.

Keep a Kleenex nearby. I suggest several.

In case you were curious, here’s the trailer:

Millie’s review of Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth revolves around a girl named Vera and how are life was completely changed by the war. The movie starts of with her, her brother (Edward), and Edward’s friend Victor. Edward and Vera are best friends, as they do everything together. Edward wishes that Vera would date his friend Victor and she does not seem as interested as he does. One day, Victor’s brother, Roland, shows up to the Britain’s household and Roland and Vera instantly fall in love. Roland was the only man who seemed to support Vera’s dream of attending college and becoming a writer, which made her love him even more. They then planned to attend Oxford together after she was accepted. Then, the war began and both Edward and Roland were eager to volunteer for the military to finally have a chance to “be a man”. In the meantime, Vera could not live with herself sitting around doing nothing for the war so she took leave from school and volunteered to be a nurse so she could “do her part”. When Roland comes home for leave, he is cold and a new guy. Vera embraces him and he breaks down to explain to her that he cannot get soft while home. After, he asks her to marry him when he is on leave next. On the wedding day, Vera receives a call from his mother that he was dead. Continuing to nurse, she then finds Victor blind in a hospital bed. Knowing that she lost Roland, she asks him to marry her but he denies. He then dies the next day. Shaken from his death, she decides to ship out to France to be a nurse at the front to be closer to Edward. There, she helps German soldiers. While there, she also finds an almost dead Edward. She was terrified and heartbroken at the thought of losing both her brother, Victor, and her fiancé. She takes him from the pile of bodies and nurses him till he is well enough to ship to Italy. He assures he will be safe and she trusts his word. She then returns home due to a letter from her father requesting she does so. While cleaning and doing chores, a boy in uniform comes to deliver the telegraph that Edward had died. The war ends shortly after, but she is never the same. She never leaves bed, can’t focus on school, and is physically drained. Another girl who also worked during the war talks to her and tries to get her well again. While walking, she encounters a rally of people planning revenge for Germany for killing their men. Vera becomes furious and rises and explains that they are men jus like our men. Their families are mourning them the same way and that they suffered the same way. She finished by saying war is not the answer because no one should have to suffer what anyone had to during this war. The movie then ended by her starting to live her life back to normal.

This movie had many similar ideas that we saw in the books we read. One being from Not so Quiet with the repetition of “Do your bit”. In the movie, Vera just kept repeating that nothing else mattered in the world right now because they needed to “do their part”. This part was repeated by men and women all throughout the movie. Another similarity I saw with this book was that Vera was an upper class woman doing dirty war work just like Nellie. Nellie and Vera also lost everyone who truly mattered to them in the war.

This movie came to show how society had no idea what the reality was of war. The things we read for class that talked about how men were not even human was perfectly displayed in this movie. When Roland came home for the first time he was cold, and mean seeming to people who were home like Vera. He then had a break down, like Paul from All Quiet.

I have not cried this hard at a movie in a long time. I can’t even begin to describe how eye opening this movie was. If you have never seen it, you NEED to watch it. It is based on true experiences from a nurse in the war. Before this class I knew war was awful, but after reading what we have read and seeing this movie, it makes me tear up at just the thought, absolutely heartbreaking.

I pledge
757 Word Count

Claire’s review of Private Peaceful

Private Peaceful is about two brothers who grow up in Devon, England and fall in love with the same girl in their youth. Love is one of the main conflicts within the movie, not the war itself. Though we do see scenes from the war, the movie is much more focused on wars of the heart. Love is one of these but also within the coming of age realm we see this constant question of “where do I belong” among the brothers. This idea of the war being a backdrop to life and its struggles made the war seem almost less important. This can happen when the plot is too heavily focused on back home rather than the front. However, maybe that decision was intentional to indicate the sharp division of the two different lives. A man lying in his own bed, is not the same person as a solider lying on his back in the trench.

The movie starts with a flash forward of the younger brother Tommo Peaceful being held in a prison cell after a court marshal hearing. That being the opening scene was a poor choice. We do not get much explanation to why we are taken to this moment in time until the very end. The imagery quickly shifts to the brothers in their youth. This part of the movie develops and explains how both brothers fell in love with Molly Monks, the former groundskeeper’s daughter.

The beginning of the movie is rather fast paced to get to the war itself. Once the war enters the film slows down a bit and the events that unfold aren’t so quick. The movie is based off of a book of the same title so the pace of the movie in some of the earlier scenes could be attributed to squeezing in a lot of backstory into a short amount of time. The development of the plot could have flowed smoother without the foreshadowing of the end of the movie or the short cuts of the brothers as boys. These scenes held no real significance except to explain the love triangle that was set up and the death of Mr. Peaceful, their father, which becomes a role Charlie takes on in some ways at the front.

Roles and the adoption of them are what adds tension to this movie. A man has many roles given to him throughout his life, some being father, brother, and in this movie we get the addition of soldier, and lover. The perspective of a character can shift when assuming these positions not only in life but especially in battle. The conflict comes when roles contradict each other. We see this the most in Charlie, the older brother of Tommo who has more at stake when he becomes a father in the movie. Since the movie has no narrator we really do not get to know the characters motivations. Without Tommo or possibly a 3rd person omniscient voice to tell us what the brothers are thinking or feeling, we have to rely on their physical reactions or speech. This is unfortunate because the dialogue did not always match the scene. The film zoomed in on particular details of the boys lives such as their childhood, giving us poems or nursery rhymes without any real explanation as to why this was being done. Such concepts might have been possibly expanded on further in the book but did not transition to the screen.

The idea of conflicting roles does take away from the pain felt in war. However, we have some great examples intermingled of how war and roles interact. The hierarchy of the war displays this. With the introduction of the character Sergeant Hanley, we see how soldiers are made to follow orders, without question, and also what happens if these orders are disobeyed. We are meant to dislike Hanley as he is controlling and gives out unnecessary punishments. However, this might be because he is jealous of Charlie who saves his life and becomes the real leader in charge of this particular section of soldiers, most of whom Charlie knows from back home.

The hierarchy of the front can be compared to the hierarchy at home. This furthers the idea that roles can be found in abundance within ones own life and that the ever-burning question of “where do I fit in” doesn’t merely go away by changing locations.

On a societal level, we notice that the Peaceful brothers are within the lower class economically speaking. They live in a cottage owned by the Colonel. The casting for this character was fitting. The Colonel is played by the late Richard Griffiths, known for being Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter films. The Colonel, a man of wealth and status is unique in allowing us to see how privilege is shown by England the country as well. The Colonel views his country as politically superior, as he proclaims “God bless the Empire” and praises Great Britain for taming the “natives”. Further in the movie though he bashes those who have left to fight while drunk in a bar, which upsets Charlie Peaceful and is one of the determining factors in why he returns to the front line after he sustains a blighty wound.

The war creates division not only in the lives of men but women as well. The best example of this is how an old lady shames Tommo on the street when he doesn’t join right away. Similarly, Molly, the girl he fell in love with as a kid, says “volunteers are brave”. His mother disagrees, and is opposed to the fighting. She says “there wouldn’t be a war if woman had their say”.

The dichotomies witnessed in this movie I thought was an intriguing take on how one chooses his own fate out of the life that is chosen for him. Tommo’s dad who dies saving him represents this struggle of protector when it is inconvenient, which is where Tommo’s guilt pressures him to enlist along with feeling unsure of himself at home. In addition, the metamorphosis from boy to soldier better explains why there is so much time in the movie dedicated to showing us youth, and back home rather than the front. Home is where the soldier is made, and the front is where he becomes lost. That is why the return home is so hard for soldiers to accept, they can not be re-found once they are born into killers.

The killings of the soldiers was disturbing and it was tragic but the speaking of English by the German soldier in the trench interrupted the violent moment, this happened again when a French bar-keep shouts “Go to hell”. Which is a shame because in the trench scene the German says “I do not kill boys” referring to Tommo’s youth (he lied about his age to enlist) but then the German himself is killed by Tommo’s squadron. Within that group, they themselves get picked off one by one. Through these killings of both body and heart we see how fraternity becomes all the more important, in a movie about family and friendship.

I pledge…Claire Dwyer

Word Count: 1198

Alex Annunziato’s Review of Journey’s End

People like to fantasize soldiers going into war as brave, strong warriors who will triumphantly win the war and gain glory. There is no talk of PTSD, fear or any type of weakness because those who start the wars want people to join. By joining the fight these soldiers are adhering to the selfish needs of the higher ups. This movie explores the darker side of war. It accurately and realistically illustrates what a soldier really goes through. Instead of focusing on the fighting itself (in fact it only shows about twenty minutes of fighting), it shows the fearful wait of the unknown.

The movie starts out at the end of the Great War: the spring of 1918. Company C had to be on watch at the front line in wait of the approaching Germans’ attack. The three main characters are Oswald, Raleigh and Stanhope. Oswald is an officer to whom the men look up to because he acts as the father figure and encourages the men to keep their spirits high. Raleigh is a young man of around twenty years old who is positioned as a new officer of Company C. Stanhope is the officer in charge who is also admired by the men of the company. On top of this he is close to the other two main characters. While waiting for the Germans to attack Stanhope is commanded to send twelve men to go on a raid to capture one of the Germans in order to get information on the attack at hand.

Instead of the movie portraying the gloriousness of war it instead showed how the men were suffering. Most of these soldiers were in their early twenties. Oswald notices this and says that he is grateful that he was able to experience life before the war whereas these young men have only experienced war. These young men most likely came into war hoping to bring honor to their country and were excited to do so. This is portrayed in Raleigh’s character. He has not gone through years of war like many others, instead it is his first time and when he finds out that he is part of the raid he gets excited unlike the other men because they know that they will most likely die since they are not new like him. However, as time goes on all of the young men realize that there is more of a chance of death than survival.  One of the men in particular, Hibbert, who is another officer has completely given up and even welcomes death in order to escape the harshness of this life. His character is the epitome of weakness. He even goes mad out of fear. His commanding officer has to constantly force and encourage him to lead the men in war.

Stanhope is an interesting character because he appears weak due to him constantly drinking whiskey. He does this whenever he is afraid of something. However, there is a part of him that is very strong. Although he is not the stereotypical strong soldier that is usually portrayed in books and movies, he realistically shows his strength by not giving up and encouraging his men to continue fighting even though he knows that he and all his men were sent out to die for nothing. He ends up losing two people that he loves, Oswald and Raleigh, and ends up sobbing which would seem as something weak. However, it is important to show this because men can never be strong all of the time.

This movie really pulls at your emotions. I truly admire how the film spent most of the time illustrating the fear and anxiety these men felt and what they lived through at a day to day basis. The trenches were terrible living conditions for these men and there were even jokes made throughout the film of how terrible the food was. One part of the movie that had a major impact on me was the seven minutes before they had to make the raid. Both Raleigh and Oswald were extremely fearful yet they tried to forget what was about to happen by talking about their past lives. The actors did an amazing job portraying that emotion and it, in fact, made me nauseous and fearful too knowing that they may not make it back alive. Both men end up dying at different times in the movie. Although they are my two favorite characters and it pained me to know they died, I do like the fact that the movie again showed the realness of it instead of trying to make it a happy ending. This movie showed that it does not matter who you like or do not like. The harsh reality is that they will die and there is nothing to be done about it.

Leise’s Film Review of St. George Shoots the Dragon

St. George Shoots the Dragon (2009) is a Serbian film following characters from the end of the First Balkan War until World War I. In class, we have not interacted with Serbian perspectives on the war, and after preparing to watch this film, it’s clear that access to Serbian art about the war is limited. You cannot purchase this movie from most popular online retailers; it is available from an independent Serbian shop online or on Ebay for a general price of 46 dollars, with sellers marketing it as rare. This is not an exaggeration; In fact, the only place one can easily access the film is on European Film Gateway, a European Union hosted database of films, with no subtitles. Despite the difficulty of access and the language barrier, St. George Shoots the Dragon is worth watching. It brings up questions surrounding disability in times of war and illustrates an intimate proximity between the battlefront and homeland that English and American books simply cannot capture.

The acting is startlingly effective—though the film is solely in Serbian, the actors portray vivid and realistic emotions that one can understand without language. Additionally, for a film depicting the effects of two different wars, it is surprisingly funny. There is lot of very dramatized fighting between veterans of the previous war as the writer stages a sort of gang rivalry between those who have returned with disabilities and those who came home unharmed. At one point, a man who has lost his foot is serenading a married woman, and another veteran throws a pig heart at him and wraps the intestines around his neck. While this attempt at humor relies on disgust, it is a somewhat petulant depiction of the new battle that exists at home in the time between the two wars. Of course, this disdain for disabled veterans is a bit off-putting in comparison to the portrayal of disability and injury in the texts we have read; in English and American society, disabled veterans seem to have been regarded with a level of nationalistic fetishization. In this Serbian village, the characters are instead viewed as deviants who must be excluded from greater society while uninjured men are seen as war heroes.

While using the disabled characters as tools for humor is certainly questionable, the film does provide further commentary on the dangers of this rivalry; as World War I begins, the able-bodied soldiers determine that the disabled veterans left at home are dangers to their wives and families. This discrimination so deeply permeates their society that in order to placate the soldiers, the veterans are forced to enlist as well. Though our other texts illustrated the desperation for bodies towards the end of the war leading to injured soldiers having to return, this film explores it in a much darker scenario as soldiers, devoid of compassion and filled with jealousy, fight for the death sentences of their neighbors.

Largely, this difference seems to lie in the proximity of Serbian soldiers to the war. For them, the front is not across the ocean. It is in their towns, walking distance from their homes and families. These characters are navigating both their lives and the war at once. In one scene, as the village celebrates a festival, children wave joyously at a pilot flying overhead before he drops a bomb down onto the town as male townspeople shoot up at him. After the bomb fell, hitting only a cart of watermelons, the festival continued. War was not just a threat to these character’s lives, it was intricately sewn into the tapestry of their experiences, their marriages, their happiness. Further, the deaths of characters within the film are not abstract letters to their spouses. Wives reclaim the bodies of their husbands from the trenches. Discrimination flourishes because soldiers are not isolated from their homelands. While English soldiers are countries away from the women and officials they disdain, Serbian soldiers have more of an opportunity to exert their traumatized anger on scapegoat victims.

Overall, this film was beautifully produced. It is graphic and blunt in its illustrations of humanity and war, while still providing audiences with humor not always found in serious war art. It is hard to find and hard to understand, but very easy to enjoy. For anyone interested in exploring another side of World War I, St. George Shoots the Dragon is worth searching for.

Forbidden Ground, a film review and a disappointment

(Formal post title: Alex R’s review of Forbidden Ground)

For all the literature and art spurned by the First World War, no matter how belated, Forbidden Ground (the movie from 2013), must be some of the worst. All this movie amounts to is essentially a cliché of a poorly written plot, which was then subjected to messy camerawork, CGI, and awkward editing to make the whole thing even more convoluted. The movie even showcased blatant inaccuracies about the war, which made me question the research which went into its production.

For starters we should talk about the plot. Forbidden Ground centers around a small cadre of English soldiers who survive their compatriots after they are sent on an obviously vindictive and ill-planned mission to charge across no-man’s land and attack the German trenches. Somehow, the movie inspired no sympathy for the characters – in fact I’m sitting here ten minutes after watching it for a second time and I can’t remember their individual names (the only character’s name who I can think of is the protagonist’s wife, Grace.) The French commanding officer is a caricature of gay-coded “bad guy” tropes, and the German commanding officer is clearly just supposed to be evil because he looks evil as a result of a massive scar on his face; neither of these characters are convincing in any way, and neither makes me sympathize with the protagonist. On top of that, the only reason we are given to like the main character is that he has a wife at home who he misses, and the only way we know this is because he writes to her twice in the movie and carries a picture of her in his notebook. While this maybe would have worked better in a different context, it’s overdramatized here – it feels forced in its execution. Similarly, neither he nor his companions change at all over the course of the movie, they are all flat characters from beginning to end. The only person I feel anything for in the whole movie is Grace, the wife, s̵h̵e̵’̵s̵ ̵m̵a̵r̵r̵i̵e̵d̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵s̵u̵c̵h̵ ̵a̵ ̵b̵o̵r̵i̵n̵g̵ ̵g̵u̵y̵(pretend that’s formatted with a real strikethrough) because she’s trying to get an abortion and is turned away. This is much more compelling than the primary plot of the movie, although it’s also overdramatized – the dialogue is all forced and hackneyed together. On top of all this, the resolution is unrealistic: there’s supposed to be a parallelism or an inversion of tropes in that she dies and he doesn’t, but it feels emotionless, partially because of the lack of reaction on the husband’s part: he just walks up to her grave in a little voiceover, drops a letter there, and strolls away. Not very emotional or consistant; if she was truly his reason to survive the war, I’d expect a different response.

On top of the poor writing, the production itself was really not great. There were clearly lots of CGI people, weapons, and blood splatters which really took me out of the story – it was hard not to laugh at some points. Also, whenever the characters were in a trench it was hard to tell where exactly they were; there was a weird lack of geographical understanding which made the whole movie hard to follow. This also goes for the no-man’s land; it was hard to tell the distance between the two lines of trenches because there was never any aerial shot (or anything at all) which helped to decode the landscape. Then there are the voiceovers, another element which made it hard to take Forbidden Land seriously. At a lot of points, it’s clear that the actors either didn’t say their lines correctly, or that they changed the lines in post production, so they just dubbed over the original sound with the new script, making it hard to tell who’s talking and taking the words out of sync with the actors’ mouths. All of these issues just really took me out of the content the film was trying to convey.

Perhaps worst of all though are the glaring historical inconsistencies. While there were smaller ones, like the young soldier having an bleach blond-to-ombre undercut, the big one was that the attitude on the homefront seemed totally different that what I’ve understood it to be. At one point the young soldier was talking about how he promised to his mate’s mother that he’d look after him; this promise seems wrong in that his mother would likely have been proud, or even egging her son to go to war. Grace’s attitude also felt inaccurate (along with that of her nurse), her husband was at war and I would have expected her to be more prideful as opposed to mourning. Although maybe these issues have to do more with the fact that I have no idea at what point during the war this movie takes place, not once during the movie do they give you the year – not even during the atrocious epistolary voice over sections.

In sum: Forbidden Land was a mess. It was poorly written, produced, and researched. Maybe these has to do with the fact that it was written, directed, and starred in one guy? Johan Earl, if you’re reading this, please do a better job next time; your extras were better actors than you. This movie was a poor representation of World War 1 and just bad movie as a whole.

(wc: 893)

Emily’s Review of The Red Baron

Alternatively titled: “The Virtue of the Vicious”

The Red Baron, directed by Nikolai Müllerschön, is a biographical action film surrounding the German World War I fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the “Red Baron”. The struggles of Richthofen regarding the morality of war are parallel to those of soldiers from All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and Not So Quiet… by Helen Zenna Smith. While the film writers took several liberties with scenes of Richthofen’s morality, making the actual depiction fictitious, the film was inherently well made, with phenomenal acting from Matthias  Schweighöfer. His performance as the young flying ace quickly tormented by the horrors of war was enough to pull on any heartstrings as Richthofen faces the loss of his patriotism and his comrades.

A major flaw of the movie, in my opinion, would be the romance between Richthofen and a nurse, Käte Otersdorf. While Lena Headey brought the sharp Käte to life, their romance was hardly given any screen time except for a few gratuitous scenes of their relationship. On screen, Richthofen and Kate have one date outside of her caring for his skull injury, and viewers are supposed to believe that they had this deep and meaningful relationship that would have lasted their entire lives had it not been for his death. More realistically, I can see each holding on to another who has seen the same horrors of war that this movie has no fear of showing.

This is the last look they share before the Red Baron takes his last flight, and while I can see fondness, it holds none of this great romance that I felt the film was trying to portray.

The two have several deep and meaningful conversations about war and patriotism and I fear that Otersdorf was only placed into the film as a vehicle to announce Richthofen’s ideals. As he said to his men, “we are here to shoot down planes, not pilots.” which unfortunately directly conflicts with something he is quoted with saying of the opposite meaning, being that of shoot down planes AND pilots which is a mark against the film for throwing away historical accuracy.

Viewers can see Richthofen growing wearier as the war continues and he loses friends and comrades in a powerful scene of the von Richthofen family eating dinner. You can see his sister in her volunteer nurse uniform, and him, his father, younger brother, and young cousin all in military regalia. While their young cousin seems excited to about to be shipped off to the front, the two brothers stay still and stoic as their sister gushes over old pictures and asking of Richthofen’s friends creating a rather awkward atmosphere. Her constant questions force him to yell out that they have all died, almost as if it was his first time admitting the fact out loud. It is not the first time he grieved for his friends, nor the first time he had stoically shut down, but it was still a powerful moment as the paradigms of his family was shifted from the propaganda they had been spoon-fed from the homefront and the Kaiser.

Besides the depiction of Richthofen’s mental health progression, the detail I appreciated the most was the true depiction of life at the front. Bombs dropping, soldiers flying like debris, bodies in the trenches, were all depicted while the war continued around them. As Richthofen progressed through the ranks, he visited more battles and footholds where ground fighting occurred which furthered his moral quandary with his and Germany’s place in a war. Richthofen butts head with the Kaiser on multiple accounts until he tells him that Germany should surrender and that he no longer wished to be away from the fighting. He could not deal with himself ordering people to die while he would not make the same sacrifice he was asking of his men.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the film despite some of its historical inaccuracies and the pointless romance sprinkled through. While knowing, historically, the outcome of the war and of his premature death, I could not help but feel some sort of hope that possibly things would turn out differently as each of the characters were given so much life and personality that it was almost impossible to not feel connected to them in some way, making this film a keeper to me.



Sophia’s Review of A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms (1957), directed by Charles Vidor and starring Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones as Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley respectively, provides a meaningful and enchanting narration to the lives of these individuals and the prevailing debacles that would have been abundant during World War One.

Image result for a farewell to arms 1957

I enjoyed the way in which the film opens with Frederic narrating – his voice-over makes for an effective beginning that already helps us relate to the mysterious and – undoubtedly – traumatic events, considering it is indeed a film of the Great War.
His voice really sets the tone and adds to the auspicious tenure of the film – that combined with the romantic, enchanting soundtrack by Mario Nascimbene, along with the background information of World War One, the films romantic and yet foreboding foundations are conveyed to us.

The ‘relationship’ of Catherine and Frederic – to begin with – seems to be much more comical compared to that of the novel, and there was not much of a build up to it; it was very sudden and I felt that their meeting and ‘relationship’ could have appeared more realistic, authentic and less comical had there been more growth and development (in a similar way to the novel).
I felt that the suddenness took away from the entertaining and intriguing partnership that Frederic and Rinaldi have, as it is only slightly regarded in the opening stages of the film (in the novel, their playful and humorous kinship is an aspect that I particularly enjoyed). I think the opening of the film did not allow their goodnatured friendship to be thoroughly shown, as the instant connection to Frederic and Catherine took over.

As the film progressed, and Frederic must return to his role as an ambulance driver – alone – it felt slightly saddening, as the progression of Frederic and Catherine’s relationship was, in my opinion, bewitching. To witness them ‘separated’ made me apprehensive, as the ensuing drama that Frederic faces make me yearn for something more charming and picturesque – as such was Frederic and Catherine’s relationship displayed throughout.  For example, the idyllic scenes of Italy’s lakes were provided as a backdrop to their bond, and such places were the definition of charming and picturesque.

Furthermore, my yearning for them to not be separated was also in part due to the phenomenal, original soundtrack by Mario Nascimbene. It is authentic and tender in the scenes of Frederic and Catherine, and ambient and sorrowful in the scenes in which it needed to be – such as their separation. The music was therefore vitally important in the emotions that the film evoked.

Interestingly, however, the final scenes of the film provided minimal background music, a decision I think enhanced, rather than belittled the sadness evident in the scenes. Instead, the silence led to a much more profound depiction of the endings event, and made it even more personal and realistic – it was almost as if we are there. There were no distractions and no disturbance, but simply our own thoughts and emotions to what we were witnessing.

Not only this, but the actors also played a role (pun intended) in my yearning for their reunion. Rock Hudson plays the function of a very masculine and rugged, handsome lieutenant extremely well. What also makes him an exceptional actor is his ability to switch from the slightly arrogant, charming and resilient masculine demeanor he holds into that of a softened, melancholic and forlorn human when needs be.

One of the final scenes in which we see Frederic momentarily staring out the window, whilst we hear the rainfall, with its inherent foreboding, outside makes for a very poignant scene. The atmosphere the sinister rainfall provided also led to a connection between us, the viewers, and Frederic. I felt that I knew what he was thinking in this scene, whilst he was staring out at Catherine’s worst fear: the belief that a shocking event may occur, even though we desperately do not want it to.

Finally, what I thought was an exceptional decision made by director Charles Vidor, was the fact that the ending provided a voiceover, only this time given by Catherine. This is the opposite to the beginning of the film where we heard Frederic’s narration. By the film choosing to end in such a way, the film’s premise comes full circle: we had begun with a volunteer army lieutenant who seemed to be breezing along with the war, its women and its fellow comrades. Yet, it ended with the voice of only one particular woman playing, what could be interpreted as, in his mind, a final farewell to what could have been and to what Frederic had been clinging on to. The film comes full circle by beginning and ending with the two main protagonists telling their story – a story that indeed does not have a happy ending, and Catherine’s voice we hear in the final moments is a reminder to this.

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I pledge.