Tag Archives: WWII

Dunkirk (2017) – a brief appraisal.

Dunkirk (2017) is a new kind of war movie.

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There are no gratuitous blood-and-guts sequences, nor are there any overtly saccharine attempts to sentimentalise the drama (think Spielberg). It was wound like a spring, and shot with such precision and clarity of vision. The film is a non-linear impressionist snapshot of the evacuation, and it was so refreshing to see a picture made of that great escape bereft of nonsensical German accents or extended scenes of generals and statesmen at conference tables. It’s the anti-genre constraints war movie, more akin to a peak Michael Mann picture – Heat (1995), The Insider (1999) – than your generic battle flick.

Operation Dynamo - men wait in an orderly fashion for their turn to be rescued.

Fear predominates – fear of being smothered by a relentless enemy, this claustrophobia reflected in sometimes mere facial expression and the economy with which Nolan employs the classic close up. And in small acts of heroism characters occasionally perform, the film explodes with such unexpected emotion that it occasionally reaches the cinematic heights of the transcendental. The last twenty minutes of Dunkirk (2017) are among some of the most prolongedly intense in modern cinema, hope (and home) the against-all-odds outcome. Masterpiece.

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.historytoday.com/patrick-wilson/dunkirk-victory-or-defeat

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/23/dunkirk-review-terrifyingly-immersive-christopher-nolan

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D-Day – then and now.

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I love these concoctions. What do you call them? I think this is Omaha Beach, 6 June, 1944 (though I could be wrong). It’s stuff like this that gives these historical photos real reverence. The record almost comes alive here.

Further reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/06/06/d-day-landing-sites-pictures_n_5458026.html

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Whicker’s War.

Alan Whicker, that mustachioed gentleman traveller, the original dapper vagabond. It was in the last great daring crusade that he honed his craft as the director of cameramen of the Army Film and Photo Unit (AFPU), or the “Army Film and Punishment Unit”. This two-part documentary is cracking. We seldom get the filmmakers as subject matter, the images of war taken for granted (our YouTube pleasures). Their sole purpose was to document. It’s our record of that struggle, the spearhead evidence offered to new generations. Their weapons were film reel.

Whicker talks of the danger of seeking that ‘perfect shot’. You may get it, but that entails being up close. And then you’re dead. Only Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) comes to mind here, *the* photojournalism masterwork.

N.B. More than half of Whicker’s team were killed or wounded.

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Kolberg (1945) – last looney propaganda piece of the Third Reich.

Kolberg (1945) is frankly bonkers.

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The most expensive German film of World War II at eight million marks, and shot between October 1943 to August 1944, this monstrosity depicts the defence of the eponymous fortress town against French troops at the height of the Napoleonic Wars (1807). It’s a kind of metaphor for German fortunes after the failures of Stalingrad and Kursk; with strategic initiative lost, the remainder of the fight on the Eastern Front became a series of attritional, reactive operations with no chance of success.

The extras comprised 187,000 people and 50,000 soldiers, apparently the second-highest cast of all time behind Gandhi (1982).

The city of Kolberg itself was declared a fortress town a mere month after the film’s opening, this consisting of regular showings in Berlin whilst air raids pummelled the capital.

Imagine the ideological fanaticism of a regime that, as ultimate annihilation beckoned, it still felt the need to plough such ludicrous resources into a movie of epic undertaking, resources that could have been of immeasurable human and material value in the war effort. This Nazi-opus Gone with the Wind (1939) just serves to highlight the tenuous grip on reality exhibited in the last years of the Third Reich, and an overbearing emphasis on *will* as the essential component in turning the tide of war.

Further reading:

http://militaryhistorynow.com/2015/04/29/kolberg-the-third-reichs-cinematic-swan-song/

 

 

 

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Verisimilitude on the Eastern Front.

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I’ve always wondered about this one, and have no way to verify whether it’s a legitimate piece of footage or not. It appears to be shot on the Eastern Front, capturing brutal house-to-house fighting between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht. Stalingrad, perhaps? I know re-enactments were commonplace, and especially right after battles. It’s an eerie proposition, though, that a soldier’s passing would one day be played back in an Edinburgh slum on a Friday evening, the viewer drinking Southern Comfort from a ThunderCats mug.

Any further info welcomed.

1:32 on the clip.

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