Monday, February 11, 2013
This is an absolutely shattering film, one of the most profound anti-war films ever made.
It is based on a play, and I believe the judgment shown in cutting Act 3 of David Haig's play and substituting a reading of Kipling's poem works splendidly for the film.
The acting and casting and directing are superb.
And the locations and sets, as is the standard for BBC drama, are wonderful to the eye.
Few films convey both the hopes, wishes, and ideology which go into the making of war and the utter futility and waste of its grim reality, and that is just what this masterpiece achieves.
World War I was built on glib phrases, airy patriotism, and emotional heroics - although in reality it was nothing more than a fight between two branches of a royal family over dominance on the continent of Europe.
It ended by killing 20 million people in the most grotesque fashion and setting the stage for World War II which would kill 50 million more.
The World War I generals repeated pretty much the tactics of the American Civil War, confirming the old saying about generals always fighting the last war, but they did so with such grimly efficient new killing technologies as heavy machine guns, tanks, poison gas, and flamethrowers.
The film's poignancy comes in part from the fact that World War I - unlike World War II or America's Vietnam Holocaust - saw the finest and best educated and most highly connected young men often volunteering, and dying.
I wish every dreamy-eyed schoolchild had this film in his or her history curriculum.
Recommended without reservation.