This is a genre I love...Yup, War films especially films about the 2 world wars. I guess it is because my dad fought in World War 2 and my mom experienced the horrors living through it as a German and the aftermath when the Russians marched in and starvation took hold. I also listened to my grandfather who lived through World War 1 but was too young to fight as he was 17 when the war ended but he and my grandmother remembered how horrible it was after the first world war with the German mark being worth less than dirt. Anyway I had so many to pick from, The Blue Max, Laurence of Arabia to the newest film by Russell Crowe but I am saving that film for a later blog post. Check out what the other people have picked by heading on over to Wandering Through The Shelves. Time to dust off the cobwebs because I went really old school...
When I first saw this film, I was blown away by the magnificent stunt flying which was pretty close to the real thing since the director, the wild William Wellman was part of the famous French Lafayette Flying Corp. after he was already in the French Foreign Legion. This film concerns 2 men both wanting the affections of the same girl. Another girl, played by Clara Bow who was the biggest star at that time, loves the one boy who is dumb not to see it. The 2 men volunteer for duty and are sent off to war. Bow's character also joins as a nurse. The climax of the film is the huge location shooting of the battle of Saint-Mihiel. Wellman used over 3,000 military men for the battle sequence along with over 300 pilots and hundreds of extras. I would love to see this restored film on the big screen with a full orchestra as it was meant to be seen.
2. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT-1930
This film left me truly humbled because it speaks about the uselessness of war. It takes place from the German point of view but it could be any view really. The main actor, Lew Ayers was so taken by the making of this film that he refused to fight in World War 2 and was vilified until it was found that he volunteered for the Red Cross and was often in grave danger. It starts in a school for boys where a dumb old teacher riles up the patriotism of these young boys to join and fight when war is declared. Soon these young men find out the true meaning of what war is and how much it takes from their souls. We live through one man's experiences through the whole war and realize how futile it truly is. I will read the book one day by Erich Maria Remarque who was a German and fought in World War 1. By the way, some of the battle scenes are used in documentaries about this war.
3. LE GRANDE ILLUSION
Another great film that leaves me speechless. The director is the famous Jean Renoir, yup the child of the famous impressionist Auguste Renoir, who created a masterpiece about war, class distinction, honour, fear, prejudice...you name it. 2 French soldiers, of different backgrounds, fly up to view something they saw in a photo that looked suspicious and are shot down. They are taken to a German POW camp where the head of the camp, played brilliantly by Erich Von Stroheim, feels a kinship with his fellow aristocratic French man and they often speak of older times. The more, leader of the peasants, Jean Gabin, feels anger at what is happening and he, along with many others, try to escape. They end up in a very tight POW camp where, it is claimed, no one can escape. You see how the soldiers entertain themselves and how they relate to one another. the great thing about this film (there are numerous great things) is everyone speaks their own language so we hear French, German and English. I can't recommend this film enough.
Which films would you choose?