While waiting for my upcoming post on this movie on the Irish Civil War you may watch a brief interview with Cillian Murphy.
Monthly Archives: August 2010
Some Reflections on Nigerian History and Why I think Tears of the Sun (2003) is Problematic
Tears of the Sun shows a Navy Seal Commander Lieutenant Waters (Bruce Willis) struggle with his conscience. During the outbreak of a war in Nigeria he is sent to rescue an American doctor (Monica Belucci). However the doctor refuses to leave without the villagers who are surely killed if no one cares to bring them to a refugee camp. The question is now, will the callous, hardened Lt help those civilians or will he merely follow orders? His conversion towards an emphatic being is not completely convincing but that is not the main problem.
The action, fighting, emotions are very intense and in so far it is good entertainment for action buffs. My problem starts when this is called a war movie. We should only call a movie a war movie when the action is based on a known conflict. The war that we are shown in Tears of the Sun did not take place, it is purely fictitious. Furthermore why invent a war? I think this is highly questionable. And why invent a Nigerian war? One film critic, A.O. Scott, even stated that Nigeria was a bad choice since it had been spared such a civil war unlike other surrounding countries. Don´t get me wrong, Scott does not defend this movie, but he only criticised the choice of inventing a war while his misconception of the existence of a Nigerian Civil War shows the core problem. The whole story reveals how very problematic it is to invent wars when even people as well-informed as A.O Scott haven totally forgotten that Nigeria was once the place of one of the most cruel and horrible civil wars, namely the Nigerian-Biafran War. To me it seems as if in inventing such a war we erase the memory of the actual war.
But even if we have forgotten this war, we have not forgotten the pictures of the starving Biafran children.
I just would like to take the opportunity to show some respect for the people who suffered in those wars we may have forgotten.
Should you be interested in reading a novel about the war in Biafra I would recommend Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie´s novel Half of a Yellow Sun or her shorty story with the same name that you can read here Half of a Yellow Sun Short Story.
What are your thoughts? Do you think it is not problematic to invent a war?
A Bridge Too Far (1977) or A Movie Too Long?
Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far has, with some reason, been called a movie too long. Yes, I must admit I was tempted not to pause it when I needed to go to the bathroom. But then again… This is not doing it any justice because it has a lot of fine elements. For a start, what I am really enthusiastic about is the re-enacting. Nowadays it is all CGI but when they did A Bridge Too Far they had no choice but have people jump out of planes with their parachutes. And this is so beautiful. The scene where they jump is almost ethereal and all those hundreds of parachutes look like ever so many jellyfish. But there the dwelling on beauty ends, too horrible is the end of those frail looking creatures. Is there anything more helpless than a man hanging from a few ropes being shot at?
Operation Market Garden has been one of the biggest planning mistakes of WWII. What could have been a successful multinational cooperation turned into a farcical disaster. Two generals, one British (Montgomery), the other American (Patton), were so full of themselves that their egos put aside any consideration of a possible failure. Moreover Montgomery totally underestimated the German’s strength. 35000 paratroopers were to land in Holland behind enemy lines. The idea was to secure three bridges, push back the German troops, invade Germany and end the war. While holding the bridges, the troops should have been reinforced by tanks. Unfortunately they forgot to provide supply lines for the paratroopers, the armored troops were held back and died on what was called “Hell’s Highway” and civilians got in between as the operation collapsed.
This movie is probably one of the most famous war movies of all times. It is an all-star cast, like The Longest Day, starring Robert Redford, Ryan O’Neil, Gene Hackman, James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, Maximilian Schell, Hardy Krüger and many more. A Bridge Too Far shows, like The Longest Day, a big operation from different points of view. I was not equally keen on all the actors but was impressed by Anthony Hopkins whose despair at the end is painfully obvious. He plays the role of Lt. Col. Frost whose troops had to defend Arnhem Bridge. The end of the movie is one of the saddest in war movie history. The troops are either defeated, taken prisoners or killed.
A Bridge Too Far is a tragic illustration of what can go wrong when egotism meets bad planning and how the price is ultimately only paid by those who must follow orders.
As I stated before it is a tad long but it will always remain one of the most important epic war movies and you should watch it if you haven’t done so already.
Children in War Movies: A List
In this post I would like to focus on war movies in which children have leading roles and are not just supporting actors like in The Hurt Locker to name but one example.
There are many movies whose sole focus are children. They come from different countries, show different conflicts and times but they have one thing in common: they are all good, very good or outstanding. This is quite remarkable. It is as if those film directors who aim for entertainment only would shy away from showing children in war movies. All the movies listed below are very different in tone. Some are light and almost playful, like Hope and Glory, some are depressing and raw like Come and See, others have the quality of a fairytale like Pan´s Labyrinth.
I am sure my list is not exhaustive. If you know of any others, let me know. I will try and review most of them in later posts, like I already did with Hope and Glory (see post), Welcome to Sarajevo (link to post), The Children of Huang Shi (see post) and Savior (see post). I am stating the name and the year and country in brackets. The conflict and where the war takes place follow behind. I did include a few movies with teenagers in it like The Bridge or Napola, but most of the others focus on much smaller children. I did also include Savior as the newborn is central to the story.
I am sure you will discover many you did not know yet as I did.
The Drum (GB, 1938): India
Mrs Miniver (US 1942): WWII, British Homefront
Since You Went Away (US, 1944): WWII, American Homefront (here is my review)
Roma, Città Aperta aka Rome, Open City (Italy, 1945): WWII, Italy
Kim (US, 1950): India
Forbidden Games aka Jeux interdits (1952, France): WWII, France
The Bridge aka Die Brücke (1959, Germany): WWII, Germany
Two Women aka La ciociara (1960, Italy/France): WWII, Italy
Ivan’s Childhood aka Ivanovo detstvo (1962, Soviet Union): WWII, Russia
Hornet´s Nest (1970, USA): WWII, Italy
Lacombe Lucien (1974, France): WWII, France
The Tin Drum aka Die Blechtrommel (Germany, 1979): WWII, Germany
Hope and Glory (1987, UK): WWII, Blitz (Here is my review)
Empire of the Sun (1987, USA) : Chinese-Japanese War WWII
Au-revoir les enfants aka Goodbye, Children (1987, France/Germany): WWII, Holocaust,France
Grave of the Fireflies aka Hotaru no haka (1988, Japan): WWII, Japan. Anime. (See my post)
Europa, Europa aka Hitlerjunge Salomon (1990 Germany/France/Poland): WWII, Germany (See my review)
Come and See aka Idi i smotri(1985, Soviet Union): WWII, Byelorussia
The Ogre aka Der Unhold (1996, France/Germany/UK): WWII, Nazi Germany
Welcome to Sarajevo (1997, USA) : Bosnia
Life is beautiful aka La vita è bella (1997, Italy): WWII, Holocaust (see post on La vita è bella)
Savior (1998, USA ): Bosnia
Silent Night (2002, USA): WWII, Germany (see my post on Silent Night)
Innocent Voices aka Voces inocentes (2004, Mexico/USA/Puerto Rico): El Salvador (see my post on Innocent Voices)
Turtles can fly aka Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004, Iran/France/Iraq): Iraq
Before the Fall aka Napola (2004, Germany): WWII, Germany (see my review of NaPola)
Pan´s Labyrinth aka El laberinto del fauno (2006, Spain): WWII Franco´s Spain
Under the Bombs aka Sous les Bombes (2007, France/Lebanon): 2006, Lebanon (see my review of Under the Bombs)
Miracle at St. Anna (2008, US): WWII, Italy (here is my review)
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008, UK/USA): WWII, Holocaust (see my review)
Escape from Huang Shi aka The Children of Huang Shi (2008, Australia, China, Germany, USA): Japanese occupation of China
Winter in Wartime aka Oorlogswinter (2008, Netherlans, Belgium): WWII, occupied Hollad in Winter, 1945 (here is the link to my post)
The Fortress of War aka Brestskaya krepost (2010, Russia): WWII, Russia 1941. Germans attack the Brest Fortress (here is the link to my post).
The Round-Up – La Rafle (2010, FR/GE/HU): WWII, Paris, the round-up of 13000 Jews in the Vel d’Hiv (here is my review)
This list is being updated regularly.
The Truce aka La tregua (1997) or Primo Levi´s Odyssey from Auschwitz back home
The late Italian writer Primo Levi was one of 650 Italian Jews who were deported to Auschwitz. He was one of only five to survive.
All of his life he suffered of survivor´s guilt and feelings of shame remembering how much they were degraded. In 1987 he very probably committed suicide. I say probably since it was not 100% established but everything points to it.
He wrote two famous books about the Holocaust. If this is a man aka Se questo è un uomo about his time in Auschwitz and The Truce aka La tregua about his odyssey back home from Auschwitz to Italy.
Francesco Rosi’s movie The truce aka La tregua is based on the second of those books.
Did you ever wonder what happened to the prisoners of Auschwitz after they had been freed by the Red Army? Being free was one thing but getting back home another one altogether.
Levi´s odyssey brought him first farther away from his home country Italy, to Minsk. You could not just board a train at leisure. The railway lines had mostly been destroyd. And what about food without money in countries whose populations were starving? It takes Primo months until he gets back. He finally arrives after stressful moments of a long and complicated journey, mishaps, dangers but also of joy and rediscovering the beauty of life.
I knew John Turturro from his movies with the Coen brothers where he plays mostly a comical character. This is a very different role but it felt as if it had been created for him. He plays this sad, pensive and gentle intellectual in a very endearing manner.
The last scene shows Primo writing. That’s what he will do from now on, that and working as a chemist. And he will leave two of the most accurate and painful accounts of Auschwitz and the journey home that we have.
People who read the book La tregua criticize the movie relentlessly but I think we should also see it as a homage to a man who had the courage to testify but never really got over the fact to have been one of a very few to survive.
I liked this movie, I really did, probably thanks to Turturro´s soulful acting.
During the last scene of the movie, when we see Primo Levi writing, we hear a voice in the off reading his poem If This is a Man aka Se questo è un uomo.
Please, take a few minutes and read it.
|Voi che vivete sicuri||You who live safe|
|Nelle vostre tiepide case||In your warm houses,|
|voi che trovate tornando a sera||You who find warm food|
|Il cibo caldo e visi amici||And friendly faces when you return home.|
|Considerate se questo è un uomo||Consider if this is a man|
|Che lavora nel fango||Who works in mud,|
|Che non conosce pace||Who knows no peace,|
|Che lotta per mezzo pane||Who fights for a crust of bread,|
|Che muore per un sì o per un no.||Who dies by a yes or a no.|
|Considerate se questa è una donna||Consider if this is a woman|
|Senza capelli e senza nome||Without hair, without name,|
|Senza più forza di ricordare||Without the strength to remember,|
|Vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo||Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,|
|Come una rana d’inverno.||Like a frog in winter.|
|Meditate che questo è stato||Never forget that this has happened.|
|Vi comando queste parole.||Remember these words.|
|Scolpitele nel vostro cuore||Engrave them in your hearts,|
|Stando in casa andando per via||When at home or in the street,|
|Coricandovi alzandovi||When lying down, when getting up.|
|Ripetetele ai vostri figli.||Repeat them to your children.|
|O vi si sfaccia la casa||Or may your houses be destroyed,|
|La malattia vi impedisca||May illness strike you down,|
|I vostri nati torcano il viso da voi||May your offspring turn their faces from you.|