Amanda Schooley’s Review of Wings (1929)

“To those young warriors of the sky, whose wings are folded about them forever, this picture is reverently dedicated.” – Last line of the opening prelude to “Wings

Filmed in the span of just nine months, Wings is a 1927 American film (although it wasn’t actually released in the U.S. until 1929), directed by former WWI aviator, William A. Wellman, and starring Richard Arlen (also a former aviator in the War), Charles Rogers, and Clara Bow—Paramount’s bona fide ‘IT Girl’ and star with a big, glittery capital ‘S’.  

The film is a romantic war drama, telling the story of two men: Jack Powell (Rogers) and David Armstrong (Arlen). Both men are from notably different walks of life: Jack is a middle class idealist with a dream of flying, while David is the son of the richest family in town and seems far more down to earth—really, the only thing the boys have in common outside of their decision to enlist in the War is their rivalry for the affections of the beautiful city girl, Sylvia Lewis (Jobyna Ralston). Meanwhile, Jack is painfully oblivious to the affections thrown his way by his friend and literal girl next door, spunky and doe-eyed Mary Preston (Bow). As 1917 closes in, both Jack and David enlist in the army to become aviator pilots and are billeted together and, following the sudden death of their tentmate and having undergone intense military training together, the two’s rivalry fizzles out into the gritty but affectionate friendship that sometimes borders on intimate as the war drags on, a relationship which feels all too familiar and tragic in this class. Meanwhile, Mary decides to enlist in the Women’s Motor Corps of America as an ambulance driver—and well…fate finds a way. 

Jack (Rogers), Mary (Bow), and David (Arlen)

This film initially caught my attention on two factors: 1) it was just barely before All Quiet at the Western Front in the US (and completed two years prior), and I was curious on its portrayal of the War—would it condemn it or glamorize it, in its retrospective approach?; and 2) as a silent film (sans the music cues and SEX added in the 2012 restoration by Paramount), it mostly relies pretty much solely the expressions and body language of the actors alongside the cinematography to tell its story, as you can’t just type out every little line of the script on title cards and call it a day. Considering how much we have read in class from the POVs of characters who have mostly internalized everything to the point of coming off as notably detached, could the exaggerated and expressive style that is practically necessary for silent films work in a film about the Great War? Thankfully, both of these questions were answered in a way that I felt was satisfying. 

Right off the bat, the cinematography is nothing to scoff at: even a shot as simple as David and Sylvie lazily swinging in a hammock together is poignant as the camera literally swings along with them, back and forth, before the sudden arrival of an excited Jack literally jolts their idyllic scene to an abrupt halt. Likewise, there’s an equally stunning dolly zoom later on in the film in which we glide past all the gleeful patrons of a French nightclub drinking and petting before we land on a happy and shamelessly intoxicated Jack. However, the moments that will surely stand out—even in the somewhat drag of a first act—are the aviation and dogfighting scenes, among the first of their kind, and just as enthralling today as they were almost a hundred years ago. Additionally, there are little animations added here and there such as the bubbles that occupy Jack’s hazy mind during his drunk stint on leave in Paris halfway through the film, as well as in the title cards, that are a nice touch. 

Many of the texts we’ve read have emphasized the dangers of individuality and how people were stripped of it during the War—here, we have a clearly defined protagonist in the primary POV character, naive Jack Powell. Moreover, the film early on, almost takes on the jovial, patriotic tone that one would more likely see on propaganda posters than on the actual Front; much lime we have a clearly defined “hero”, we have our established villain: German ace pilot Count von Kellermann and his dreaded “Flying Circus” who, among ominous closes ups of the Iron Crosses on their black planes and shots of the pilots giggling and twirling their mustaches as they bomb compounds with glee, are accompanied by a score that seems more suitable for a Star Wars villain. Likewise, the emphasis on comradery amongst the Allied forces is paramount—the British soldiers gleefully rescue Jack went he’s down and cornered by German gunfire, eagerly ushering him into their trench with wide smiles on their faces—”chivalry of the knights of air”, the movie calls it. There’s even a comic relief character, a Dutchman named Herman Schwimpf, whose entire schtick is that he is blissfully and shamelessly patriotic to the point of getting an American flag tattooed on his bicep to wave as his superiors continuously try and fail to literally knock sense into him.

Gary Cooper, in his film debut, as “Cadet White”

Yet, despite the somewhat light tone starting out, there are notable undercurrents of things not being so great about the Great War: kicking off with the almost immediate and senseless death of Jack and David’s would-be tentmate, Cadet White, before we even have the chance to get attached. Likewise, a fairly comedic scene of Jack’s fun drunk antics in Paris and Mary’s attempts to get him to leave with her to get him back to his post (and away from the French girl he’s been cozy with) is under the threat of him being court martialed, and ends with the painful double whammy of Mary both realizing Jack is in love with Sylvia and then being fired from her job when military police catch her undressing from a gown she used to infiltrate the nightclub, and assume the worst.

“Here, for men fresh from the front, whose minds carried the image of unutterable horrors—here was forgetfulness…”

It all goes downhill following her abrupt exit, as we are thrown headfirst into the War again with scenes that are, while not very explicitly bloody, are just as intense—from a random soldier getting struck down with shrapnel from a bombing in the Front, to another soldier being crushed by a falling tank, its made abundantly clear that this film, while a romance, is anything but romantic down to its roots. When Jack and David’s relationship gets tested following a misunderstanding, and David is later shot down by the enemy in the following dogfight, Jack makes it a point to brand himself the hero and avenge his fallen friend by taking down as many Germans as he can. Little does he know, David is still alive in German territory, and manages to escape by stealing a German plane. Oh, oh no… 

The film was also one of the first to show a same-sex kiss onscreen

Jack’s stint at heroism ends with a sharp role reversal as he is given tube villainous music cues as he tries to chase and strike down David, believing he’s “only another foe to be slaughtered without mercy”. When he eventually succeeds, he’s finally broken when he realizes his fatal mistake, much like Paul and the French soldier, only this time, he has a grieving family he has to go back to. Rogers and Arlen’s acting in this scene is excellent, and we even cross that blurred line of the friend, brother, and the lover so common in the bonds between soldiers at the time, leading up to arguably the most famed scene of the film nowadays: Jack passionately kissing David on the lips as the latter dies in his arms. And although Jack goes home a celebrated “hero” (to the point of literally having his name and face plastered on newspapers that laud him as such) and is publically showered with adoration and flowery parade rides through town, there’s a distinct emptiness as he looks at the little bear charm David left behind—the one Jack promised to return to his mother. Furthermore, the ending scene between Jack and David’s mother makes the message obvious: “I—I wanted to hate you, John, but I can’t. It wasn’t your fault. It was—war!”

Overall, I really enjoyed this film despite its slow start, and would recommend it even if you don’t like silent films. The acting and the action is excellent, and it really feels like gradually watching characters like Paul get to the point of where they were in their story fresh from their idealistic beginnings—under a less overly violent, nihilistic lens. I can see why this won the Academy Award for Best Picture. My only real complaint is that Mary did NOT deserve Jack—at all.

Brooke Hyatt’s review of Joyeux Noel

Joyeux Noel, made in 2005 directed by Christian Carion, is a French film capturing an accurate portrayal of various places along the front. Based on the true story about the Christmas truce of December 1914, Joyeux Noel is filmed from the perspectives of three different regiments, the Scottish, the French and the Germans. Throughout the film we hear actors speaking in German, English, French and even Latin during a religious ceremony. The actors all portray a character of their nationality, which adds another dimension to the character. This added level brings more realism to the film and to the situation, deepening the viewers empathy and emotional reaction. A key component of any war film is a question of the accuracy, and in this case the directors stayed very true to the events as well as utilizing letters and other reports supporting the film’s portrayal. 

From the war being announced and boys being excited to participate, to the constant distant sounds of bombings and the sights of flare, this movie was meticulously researched. The film depicted the Christmas trees being sent to the German front lines, as well as the opera singer sent for entertainment by the Crown German Prince Wilhelm; though there were some creative liberties taken to add a romantic element to the film, the storyline stays accurate to true events. Since this is the beginning of the war, gas masks were not needed yet and most of the front may have not yet experienced the mass casualties that became more common as the war progressed. This is one of the reasons why truces were even possible at this time. Another heavily researched aspect of the film was the set. The set designer looked into weapons, uniforms, food, structure of trenches, and even into a depiction of a Latin mass. Of the few inaccuracies I could see, some are regarding the trenches as in the movie, the trench is not packed with men and we don’t see men displaying any signs of trench foot, a common occurrence due to never being able to get out of the mud and muck of the trenches. However, we do see men having lice, and large rats taking over the trenches. We also see wounded men being left overnight in no man’s land groaning and begging for help, like we read about in All Quiet.

Adding to the dramatic element and the human effect, all three leading Lieutenant characters were all written to be similar to each other. Something I found relevant to not just the characters but also the accuracy of the time and film was that all three could speak some or were fluent in the other’s languages. The German lieutenant spoke French and English fluently, and even spoke of how his wife was French and he would often visit the village where the French Lieutenant is from. These conversations helped to humanize the characters and show how it truly was a fight among the lower classes.

We have discussed this concept in class, how it was the lower classes actually fighting in the war and the upper class sending orders from afar, not truly understanding the brutality and cruelty of war at the front. A French lieutenant says, “You’re not living the same war as me,” to his superior officer after the Truce, and this quote sums up the separation between soldiers on the front and officers hiding in offices. During the Christmas Truce, we see soldiers meeting soldiers and building connections. Soldiers who don’t want to continue fighting, and wonder why they are fighting in the first place. They have seen death and have lived through miserable conditions since the start of the war and miss their wives. In Joyeux Noel, the soldiers have a difficult time restarting the fight after their truce and each regiment gets relocated or broken up and sent to different stations on the front due to their actions. 

The biggest inconsistency I found was a female opera singer joining her husband at the front, so I surmise it was added just for the romantic element and a plot driver. A female being at the front in the trenches, and sleeping overnight, doesn’t seem historically accurate from the work we have uncovered in class. Another inaccuracy was that at one point the troops took turns shielding the opposition in their own trenches from an air-raid, I was not able to find research or letters to support this action. 

The film ends with the German troops singing a song that they learned from the Scottish Soldiers, a song called Hymne des Fraternises (also known as I’m dreaming of home). The lyric, “I’m dreaming of home, I feel so alone,” captures a serious moment in the film surrounding fraternization with the “enemy”. What started as cheering and recognition with universally known songs through the trenches, lead them to meeting on no mans land and learning about each other. In the end, all of them were dreaming of home, and they realized they actually were not so alone.

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Nathalie Navia-Luciano’s Film Review of Battalion (2015)

Battalion (2015) is a historical Russian war film set in part at home before the latter part takes place at the front line. It was written by Ilya Avramenko, Evgeniy Ayzikovich, and Dmitriy Meskhlev and was also directed by Meskhlev. The film won awards for it’s music score, film editing, and Mariya Kozhevnikova’s performance as a supporting actress (IMBD). The movie follows the first Russian Women’s Battalion of Death which was formed as a part of a propaganda ploy to boost the morale of the men who abandoned their posts at the front line.   

The plot of Battalion was very ambitious and rich. To attempt to record and retell a part of history that is involved in conversations on gender, politics, class, and how other social norms are disrupted during the course of war is quite the feat. To add to that, the heavy amount of characters and backstories they tried to cover often had me lost and scrambling to find out who was who and what was important or motivating to each of them. The film did a good job of keeping track at the start of the film when many of the women are introduced at enlistment, however as the plot developed it was a struggle to feel close to these characters and some of their deaths. The plot also attempted to move on plot points that felt odd and out of place. One such instance was the few minutes of domestic abuse and the graphic portrayal of (I wont say who for the sake of spoilers) that felt so unnecessary when such a struggle could have been mentioned more simply through dialogue. Even with a little over two hours of screen time, the ending felt abrupt and the story choppy as there were many moving pieces that seemed to just drop midair.

The actors of the film did a good job at portraying their characters in a manner that felt plausible and believable even in extreme plot points. Most notably the commander of the Women’s Battalion; of whom is hardened by years of battle and now leading a battalion of her own. At the face of death and the deaths of the women she is leading, her despair and guilt weighs heavy and translates clearly through the screen. On the other hand, as mentioned previously, the amount of men and women were so many that it felt as if they fought for dialogue and screen time to relate each’s own seemingly important subplots. I felt as if some actors’ performances felt forced and theatrical; such as the moments from the general office.

The cinematography of the film was beautifully shot to include broad moments of architecture and solid pieces of the setting both at home and at war to ground the viewer. However, technical elements such as camera angles, blurring, and close up moments at times felt inappropriate. In one moment of the film, on the front line, the camera bounced up and down in the face of one of the woman soldiers in a manner that felt awkward and jarring. In other instances, a blurred camera view can effectively and intimately draw the viewer to a vague understanding of how your vision could be obstructed during a gas attack or faulty after an injury to the head. The musical score, on the other hand, effectively boosted the film and its moments of anticipation and relief; whether the relief was to be false or true.

Overall, the film Battalion was a movie that tried to do many different things, but did not have enough time to properly and effectively cover such elements. Such conventions and themes were; political motivations, the psychological effects of war, womanhood vs. manhood, and how normalizing judgment works within that space. As a result, the message felt very rushed and difficult to keep up with. I would have loved to explore more why the soldiers abandoned the front line and ultimately why they decided to take the course of action that they did at the end of the film. I would have also loved to see how loss of self functioned within sexuality more developed in the movie as it was only mentioned in passing a few times. However, I would recommend Battalion as it is a movie that does capture a unique piece of Russia’s history that I would have otherwise been ignorant to if I did not have the honor to watch the film. 

Source: IMDB

Amanda Ramirez’s Review of Johnny Got His Gun (1971)

“I’m having a nightmare and I can’t wake up.”

Based on the 1938 novel of the same name written by Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun is an anti-war film directed by Trumbo himself in 19711. Johnny Got His Gun details the experiences of a young, fictional soldier named Joe Bonham (Timothy Bottoms) who was seriously injured on the very last day of World War I. With this tragedy, for Joe, comes confusion, despair and several startling realizations as time goes on. At some points, things start to look up for Joe, only for those dreams to seemingly end as quickly as they began.

Johnny Got His Gun provides a harrowing depiction of not only the emotional harm that can result from war, but the physical harm as well and the possible consequences of each. In Joe’s case, his emotional harm seems to largely stem from his physical harm and the poor attempts made by the medical team that attends to Joe to regard him as conscious and feeling. Due to the severity of his injuries, Joe is made to be entirely dependent on near-constant medical care and attention. On a darker note, the medical staff where Joe is being taken care of do not understand Joe’s inner thoughts, as he is unable to verbally communicate and initially does not even understand what has happened to him. It felt as if with Joe’s vast physical injuries, his humanity was stripped away from him by others’ lack of true understanding and compassion, leading to the tragic ill-treatment of his injuries as a whole.

As for the stylistic choices in the film itself, when the scenes are centered in Joe’s present-day reality (post-injury), the scenes are shot in black and white. Joe’s lines are not delivered by him verbally, but rather through the style of Joe acting as a narrator for his own internal monologue. For the majority of the present-day scenes, Joe is able to broadcast his thoughts to viewers of the film, but not to those around him. On the other hand, when the scenes are focusing on Joe’s memories and dreams/imagination (pre-injury or free of injury), they are shot in color. This felt like a really interesting stylistic choice for this movie and worked effectively to distinguish the “settings” (so to speak) of the film and set the tone for each one respectively. The black and white scenes reflected Joe’s somber, solitary reality, while the color scenes seemed to be more hopeful for Joe, and frequently less bleak than the present-day.

Bottoms’ performance as Joe complemented the film nicely, even though there were moments that may not have felt as emotionally convincing as others. This minor complaint, however, does not really seem to impact the overall quality of the film. There are several (I mean several) emotional pockets dropped in throughout the film in which Bottoms offers up strong thoughts and feelings with his role as Joe. These pockets were often joined up with the performances of pivotal characters in Joe’s story, such as his father (Jason Robards), his girlfriend Kareen (Kathy Fields), and the smallest nurse that attends to him (Diane Varsi).

Overall, the film’s story had good pacing and although there were many switches between the present-day and Joe’s memories and dreams/imagination and his and others’ fluctuating emotional states, it was not a challenge to keep up with. Even if the acting could be more convincing at some points, the story and performances still managed to conjure up some strong emotions for me. Minor criticisms aside, Johnny Got His Gun was ultimately heart-wrenching to watch and provided a lot to reflect upon.

1 Source: IMDb

Aidan’s Review of Gallipoli

Directed by Peter Weir and released in 1981, Gallipoli follows the journey of two young Australian men, Archy and Frank, in their quest to do their bit for their country.  The film opens with young Archy Hamilton (18) training with his uncle for the 100-meter run.  Archy is said to be the fastest kid in Western Australia and is going to compete in his first race in a few days. 

The night before the race, Archy’s uncle reads the story of Mowgli from the Jungle Book to Archy’s younger relatives.  Mowgli’s character represents a coming of age story which foreshadows the same loss of innocence Archy is to experience.  This indeed comes true as Archy ends up leaving his uncle after winning the race to join up.  Originally, Archy is rejected from the Light Horse in his hometown (the company Archy is trying to fight with) for being underage.  This is when Archy meets his new mate Frank Dunne who at first provides a stark contrast to Archy’s character as he does not see the point in joining up as it is “England’s war.”  However, after enough societal pressure from Archy and others, Frank decides to join too.  The two travel together to Frank’s hometown of Perth in order to try and join the Light Horse again.  Archy succeeds, but Frank is rejected because he cannot get his horse to move.  The two are eventually reunited in Egypt at training camp as Frank joins up in the infantry.  The two spend weeks there training and building relationships with other comrades such as Snowy, Barney, and Bill.  Soon after, Archy and Dunne’s companies are sent to Gallipoli, a peninsula in Turkey.

Here, the Anzacs (Australians and New Zealanders) and English are fighting to overtake Turkish resistance over the Dardanelles and Bosporus channels which Churchill (English Lord of the Admiralty) thought were vital to supply Russia with ammunitions.  The fighting is brutal and the Turkish soldiers have a much better position.  In a last ditch attempt to overtake the Turkish line, the colonel of the brigade, Colonel Robinson, orders an attack on the Turkish line.  There was supposed to be an artillery strike on the Turkish soldiers and then a rush of infantry.  Because of mistimed communications and the stubbornness of Colonel Robinson, the infantry does not rush out soon enough after the artillery strike so the Turkish opposition have time to regroup and load their machine guns.  As a result, the Anzac men are sent out into a senseless slaughter.  Colonel Robinson was informed that an Anzac flag was seen in one of the Turkish trenches even though this was not true.  He tells Major Barton to keep ordering his infantry over the wall despite major losses.  At the same time, Dunne, has been tasked as a communications runner.  Dunne is aware of all of this and instead advises Barton to go over the colonel’s head.  He complies and Dunne is sent to ask the general of all of the brigades at Gallipoli to reconsider the attack.  However, the only way to do this was to run down to the beach from the trench and ask him in person.  After reaching the general, Dunne is told to tell Barton to stop sending his men, but right before Dunne can make it back, the final line of men including Archy are sent out to their death.  The movie ends with Archy running towards the Turkish trench where he is the last to be cut down.  As he is hit, he leans back which draws parallels to breaking the tape at the end of a 100-meter race, his staple. 

There are many parallels between this movie and the literature we have read and discussed in class.  

For one, the generational divide and power dynamics we discussed in class are evident in this film.  Due to miscommunications between higher powers, the young soldiers including Archy are sent out to die.  This film illustrates a war that was not started by the younger generation, but seems to only have impacts on them.  The senselessness and unfairness of this is a common theme in World War I films and books, but is best represented by the young infantry men being sent to die essentially by their own colonel.    

The acting in this film is also very well done.  Each character plays an important symbolic role, and they all play them to perfection.  Snowy and Archy represent citizens who are all for the war and see it as their duty to their country (similar to the B.F.).  This is exhibited by Archy’s and Snowy’s cheerful attitudes toward the war and Snowy’s line where he says they must do their bit for their country.  Dunne symbolizes a wary citizen not sure if they are for the war, but are eventually convinced to join due to societal pressures.  All of the older men symbolize the older generation who pressured their sons into war and caused them to be known as “the lost generation.” 

The film, while dramatized, is based upon true stories from the battles that occurred at Gallipoli.  However, one major historical inaccuracy can be observed after further research.  In the film, the Battle of Nek (where Archy dies) is said to be a distraction so British forces can land at a nearby destination called Sulva.  This is in fact inaccurate as the battle was actually a distraction for a New Zealand attack on Sari Bair.  While this does not take away from the deep levels of sadness the audience feels after watching the movie, it does lend itself as a potential issue with the film that may lead to some unhappy Brits.     

Overall, Gallipoli can be characterized as a gut-wrenching coming of age film that displays both the highs and lows of war.  The importance of the camaraderie between men is demonstrated throughout the film as it is with books we have read this semester such as All Quiet on the Western Front.  However, the horrors of war stand out more as the film lends itself to the pathos of the audience and creates a lasting feeling of sorrowfulness due to the death of the protagonist. 

Works Cited

Gallipoli, Directed by Peter Weir, Austrlian Film Commisson, 1981.

Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, January 19). Gallipoli (1981 film). Wikipedia. Retrieved February 28, 2022, from

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Terrencia Johnson’s review of “A Farewell to Arms” 1957

The 1957 A Farewell to Arms film directed by Charles Vidor was a delightful film that tied together the excellent writing of Ernest Hemingway perfectly. Something that is mentioned at the very beginning of the film is that this story is a love story, not a war story. This allows the viewers to not expect many harsh visual focusing on the war but rather allows us to remember to focus on our main characters and the journey they go through. Throughout the entire film we see a wide range of different landscapes. Specifically in the opening credits we get to see the beautiful scenery of Italy that sets the viewer up for where we are and where this film will begin. For a 65-year-old film, the visuals and camera quality are amazing. I was very impressed on how clear the scene was and how nicely edited the film was. If I did not know the year this film was released, I could honestly say I would think this film came out in at least the 1990’s. If you are debating on whether you want to watch the film first or read the book first, definitely read the book first. It was interesting to watch how scenes played out in an actual visual. I felt as though this gave me a clearer opinion of certain events or conversations that occurred in the book. Although the story line was the same as the original writing of Hemingway, there were some minor changes that you will only pick up on if you read the book prior to viewing the film. I do not believe these changes took away from the story but added a deeper meaning to the story line. In this film there was foreshadowing of something very important. I do not want to spoil it for those who have not read the book to understand the importance but as you watch, try focusing on the visuals of children within the film and how they are represented throughout. It will give a lot of contexts to a big moment in the film. Rock Hudson, who played as Fredric Henry, was able to really capture the role as Henry. He was a natural for this role and seemed to give his all within his performance. Jennifer Jones, who played as Catherine Barkley, also tapped into the role of Catherine perfectly. While at first, I discredited her acting in certain scenes, I realized that based on Catherine’s personality, she mirrored her exactly as she would have behaved. The chemistry between Hudson and Jones was strong and it showed throughout the entire film. It was as though they were genuinely in love and going through all there obstacles together. This really made the viewer feel sympathy for the two all throughout the movie. One thing that seemed very interesting was the feel that time was going by so quickly, compared to in the novel time was slowed down. I appreciated this in the film because there was not a bunch of fluff throughout it and the transition of new scenes had a pace that was not confusing to the viewer. Overall, the film was very well put together and was a direct visual that demonstrated the truth behind Hemingway’s words. I leave you with one quote from the film and the novel, “You never have a chance to learn”. As you watch this film, keep that in mind, it is amazing how much power those seven words have.

All Quiet on The Western Front 1930 Film Review

Alexis Stenberg

All Quiet on the Western Front is a movie based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. The novel has been reviewed to be the greatest war novel of all time. So, this movie had high expectations. This review will be on the original 1930 movie adaptation of the novel. My overall review of the film was that it was solid adaptation of the novel. I value a movie that is based off of a novel, to stay true to the original story. This film does just that. Some events take place differently than they do in the novel, but it doesn’t change the overall narrative of the story. Even as a movie by itself, I still believe that it is a great film with great characters and even fantastic film making.

Just like in the novel, the movie follows a group of young men who enlist in the German Army during World War I. The protagonist is Paul, who is played by Lew Ayres. Ayres did a fairly good job playing Paul. There were some scenes that Ayres did very well at, while others could have been better. Lew Ayres did have a difficult task acting Paul’s character. In the novel, we only read the story from Paul’s point of view. So it’s easy to read how Paul is feeling and thinking throughout the novel. But in a movie Ayres needed to portray these emotions. The scene that Lew Ayres acted very well was the scene when Paul is in the hospital with his dying friend Kemmerich, played by Ben Alexander. This is a short but powerful scene in the film. Ayres did a great job when portraying Paul’s emotions throughout this scene. However, a different scene that Ayres could have done better was the scene where Paul is stuck in a fox hole with another Italian solider that he just killed. This is an infamous moment in the novel. As the reader you really get into the mind of Paul and comprehend the war and his emotions around him. Lew Ayres did a good job, it was just missing something for me while watching it. I feel like if you haven’t read the novel, this scene would come off as a little confusing. I think if Lew Ayres were able to express a little more emotion of what happens in the scene it could have been better.

One thing that has to be acknowledged with this film was the scenes of the war. Today, this movies practical effects would be extremely subpar. But this film was made in the 1930s, cinema was just starting off and films were relatively good natured and didn’t show explicit scenes. This film was actually banned in many countries at the time for how graphic the movie was. When we think of war movies today, we tend to think of very graphic and bloody scenes like the beginning of the film Saving Private Ryan. This film managed to show the terror of war without almost any blood on screen. That is amazing and goes to show that this film stands out among other war films.

Overall, this film was accurate adaptation of the original novel and even of World War I. Even though the film cut out a few parts from the novel, it stayed true to the original story. I truly believe that this film helped portray and even help those who have served in wars and will be a staple of World War I cinema. There is one scene where Paul is fighting at the front for the first time and he witnesses an Italian solider grab a part of the barbed wire fence, and a bomb hits him. All that is left of the Italian solider are his hands still holding on to the fence. That is an image that I, like Paul, will remember for the rest of my life.

Megan Hofmann’s review of “In Love and War”

The film In Love and War (1996), directed by Richard Attenborough, depicts the vibrant, early life of Ernest Hemingway and his military service in Northern Italy during World War I. The film takes place in the year 1918, with most of the film revolving around a war hospital where an injured young Hemingway becomes enthralled by a beautiful Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who is seven years older than the “kid.” Familiar faces are part of the film’s cast, such as Sandra Bullock as Agnes and Chris O’Donnell who plays the part of Hemingway.

In Love and War does not necessarily showcase magnificent film work that modern war movies commonly display. As stated previously, many of the film’s scenes center around Ernest Hemingway recovering from a war injury at a hospital several miles away from the immediate war zone. There are only a handful of scenes pertaining to the frontline, with one of them being a brief display of a frontline trench and the other a field camp. The trench scene in particular does not imply extreme accuracy, at least in comparison to the miserable images of mud, muck, and filth displayed on the class blog. Throughout the trench scene, Hemingway romanticizes being a frontline infantryman by borrowing an Italian soldier’s gun to “pretend fire” at the enemy, and I feel as though his romanticism reflects Attenborough’s depiction of the trench as well. The most interesting scenic variety the film conveys revolves around the stunning Italian countryside and cityscape, however, the filming location alone makes these scenes beautiful, not necessarily the mastery of the filming itself.

In the same manner Hemingway’s, A Farwell to Arms is not a typical war book, (meaning much of the book revolves around a love story rather than the war itself), In Love and War is not amainstream wartime film either. As the title suggests, the film’s plot focuses much more intensely on the love affair of Agnes von Kurowsky and Hemingway rather than the historical significance of the first World War. In addition, oftentimes in my experience amongst scholars, Hemingway is not spoken of with the highest esteem regarding his personal life, however, the majority of this film depicts Hemingway as a young, vivacious man who finds the living experience to be exciting and full of potential. Although most of the film concentrates on the love story between the two main characters, the storyline itself gives a thought-provoking glimpse into Hemingway’s life and presents an interesting biographical account of Hemingway before the personal struggles he is famously known for present themselves in his life’s narrative.

Overall, I would not say that In Love and War will go down in history as one of the most influential World War I films I have watched. Nonetheless, I still find the storyline to be intriguing, especially because I viewed the film directly after finishing Hemingway’s A Farwell to Arms, a story that has remarkable similarities with the film. Ernest Hemingway’s life was undoubtfully troublesome. However, I do believe this film’s depiction of Hemingway does a wonderful job of portraying the fact that sometimes life narratives simply cannot be wrapped up neatly and presented with a pretty bow. Life experiences can be tragic. As seen with Hemingway, experiencing personal tragedy early in life can alter the course of one’s existence, and this film engages in the unfortunate job of helping to explain the reasoning behind Hemingway’s personal struggles.

Jacob Lertora’s Review of War Horse

On its surface, the plot of War Horse (2011) is a hard sell: the protagonist, Joey, is a horse that is exchanged between a farmer, British, French, German, British, and finally back to the same farmer’s hands with a backdrop of the First World War. The characters and the owners of Joey shift often, and years pass between scenes as the movie spans the entirety of the war in two hours and 26 minutes. However, boiling down War Horse to these bare elements would be doing a great disservice to the film, which finds its legs in the smaller details, while making full use of its unconventional main character.

War Horse opens with a couple of scenes involving Albert, (the farmer’s son), and his new horse, which he names Joey. Joey, under Albert’s guidance, must overcome his first challenge to plow a field for planting. The audience waits with bated breath as Joey struggles, with Albert coaching and cheering him on, as he conquers this first obstacle and clears the rocky field. In this way, the film attached me to the concept of Albert having “rightful ownership” of Joey — an important distinction that would become relevant later. Unfortunately, Albert’s family falls into poverty despite Joey’s hard work, and Albert’s father makes the decision to sell him to the British army. Albert rushes to stop the sale, but it is too late, and he is promised that Joey will be returned by the war’s end.

Joey and his new owner are shown exiting a train as Joey befriends the horse of a major, named Topthorn. Topthorn and Joey are shown working together to achieve the fastest time in drills, and will be steadfast companions throughout the war. The two are transferred along with their owners to fight in France, where a foolish cavalry charge is called. The basis of this charge, despite two-to-one odds, is that their speed will surprise the Germans and allow the British a quick decisive victory.

This proved to be a fatal mistake in the following scene. Their charge begins well, with Joey’s owner striking down several Germans (bloodlessly) as they stumble out of their camp in disarray. However, the tide suddenly turns as the remaining Germans regroup and rush for their machine guns at the edge of a forest. As the machine guns rattle, riderless horses leap over the German lines as their British companions are implied to be killed off-screen. This scene represents a tonal shift in the film, as the backdrop of the First World War is shoved into the foreground. While the violence occurs off-screen to preserve the movie’s PG-13 rating, I don’t believe this detracts from the message the scene is meant to convey. Despite it being absurd that the Germans somehow managed to miss every single horse and hit every single rider, the imagery of hundreds of idealistic young soldiers disappearing in an instant is felt. The lack of music helps to convey the seriousness of this scene, with the audience feeling the ebb and flow of battle as the advantage rapidly changes hands. The film successfully conveys how a single mistake by a rash major could erase thousands of lives in an instant.

Joey and his partner Topthorn miraculously survive this ill-fated charge, and they are discovered later by a French farmer and his granddaughter. Emilie, the farmer’s granddaughter is sickly, and unable to ride Joey, but her grandfather eventually relents and allows her to try anyway. Emilie loses control of Joey, leading to both horses’ discovery by the Germans, who commandeer them for the war effort. Joey and Topthorn are handed over to the care of Friedrich, an artilleryman who is to monitor the horses’ condition. Topthorn’s health has been declining over the past several days, so when an officer orders Friedrich to bring Topthorn to pull a heavy gun, he begins to protest. Having seen the officer shoot another “useless” horse previously, Joey swoops in and seemingly volunteers to save the life of his friend, which causes the officer to relent. 

Here, the audience sees the strength of a non-human protagonist. Joey views the situation without bias, merely thinking about the survival of himself and his friend Topthorn. The thoughts of a brooding protagonist would muddle the simple injustice brought about by the German officer, and the kindness of Friedrich as he attempts to save Topthorn. The strengths of War Horse are brought about in the classic literary wisdom of showing rather than telling: I felt angry when an injustice was committed and happy when Joey stepped in not because it was explained to me in a righteous monologue but because these events were shown clearly on-screen.

The film then skips ahead several years to 1918, as Albert is shown in the British army, having volunteered or been conscripted off-screen. He rushes forward into a seemingly unoccupied German trench, only to be struck by a sudden gas attack. He is injured and the film returns to Joey and Topthorn. The scenes featuring Joey, Topthorn, and Friederich were mostly calm affairs, but this particular scene devolved into chaos almost immediately. Topthorn collapses as his strength finally fails him, dying tragically in front of Joey and Friederich. Suddenly, the Germans in front of the pair fall back as a tank advances toward their position. Joey panics and runs desperately across the battlefield, separating from Friederich and becoming entangled in barbed wire. A British and German soldier later work together to free Joey from the wire, with the British soldier taking him back behind his lines. As the war ends, Joey and Albert are eventually reunited and the film concludes on a happy note.

War Horse suffers from a combination of absurd coincidence and a strange lack of violence for a brutal war setting. However, it manages to drive across crucial messages about the First World War through its stellar scene work and unique protagonist. This makes War Horse an odd, but surprisingly entertaining exploration of the World War 1 genre.

Works Cited

War Horse. Directed by Steven Spielberg, Dreamworks, 2011.

Word Count: 1007

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Bella Molseed’s review of “Darling Lili”

Darling Lili (1970) is a musical comedy spy film set in France towards the end of the Great War. Written by Blake Edwards and William Peter Blatty, and directed by Edwards, the film did poorly upon release and the name Darling Lili became synonymous with a box office flop. As the years have gone by, however, Darling Lili has become much more appreciated as a film, and the poor response can be attributed to an oversaturation of the movie market with movie musicals attempting to capitalize on the success of The Sound of Music in the late 1960s. Julie Andrews starred as the titular Lili Smith and sang most of the movie’s soundtrack and Rock Hudson played across her as the charming, although hyper-masculine William Larrabee.

Inspired by the story of Mata Hari, a Dutch burlesque performer and prostitute convicted of being a German spy during the Great War, Darling Lili follows Lili, a famous British singer secretly spying for the Germans, as she is assigned to spy on Major William Larrabee, an important officer known for being a playboy. Unfortunately for her mission, she happens to fall in love with him while attempting to seduce him for information on a secret mission called “Crepe Suzette.” Lili becomes convinced that Mission Crepe Suzette is a code word for his affair with the burlesque dancer of the same name and becomes incredibly jealous, framing Suzette as a German spy. The story is fraught with idyllic picnic dates and horrible communication skills, with a fun sprinkling of classic mid century racism and gender roles. One particular moment that is certainly wince worthy today is when Larabee first romances Lili by having a fancy picnic outside her window, complete with a band of “Hungarian g*p*sies,” a horrible caricature of the Romani people getting drunk and entertaining the two leads.

The cast of this film gave a phenomenal performance, Julie Andrews as the obvious standout. Her comedic timing and incredibly earnest nature made the romance of the story, which was some peculiar mix of sweet and uncomfortable, much more bearable. 

The script was, in just one word, confusing. Often, it was hard to follow the spy storyline, especially with the cuts throughout to long, loud battle scenes between fighter planes. The storyline almost sets up Lili to be much cleverer than she actually is, especially within her fit of jealousy. In one scene, Lili’s uncle and spy director informs her that no other information about Mission Crepe Suzette (a mission Lili had overheard Larrabee mention and brush off to her) has leaked and therefore it must either be incredibly important or Larrabee lied to her, which Lili convinces herself means he has a secret relationship with another woman. While Larrabee attempts to seduce Lili, she keeps delaying the act, requesting they move to a different room or laughing, angering him. She then claims he called her another woman’s name, Suzette, refusing to have sex with him until he convinces her that there is not other woman and to tell her the truth about Mission Crepe Suzette. As an audience member, this seemed like a ploy to get him vulnerable and desperate enough for sex that he would tell her about the top secret mission, which would be an incredibly brilliant manipulation on her part. However, the film never lets Lili be that clever. Of course, she does not believe him and storms away convinced he is having an affair. 

Moreover, it was hard to tell for most of the film if it was meant to be a comedy or not. There were some hilarious moments, like when Lili slams open a door as a clap of thunder booms, then enters the room with a cheerful smile on her face, or when she watches Suzette, the burlesque dancer that Larrabee actually was having an affair with, perform and the camera would cut between Suzette’s striptease and Lili’s insecure expression. But for most of the film, the genre seemed to flip every scene, from convoluted spy drama, to lighthearted romance, to serious satire of the Great War, to racy slapstick comedy, and back again. It does not allow the characters to be as fully dynamic as they could be, and while the Great War sets the circumstances of the plot, the war seems to have no impact on the characters, even though it had a lot of potential to really focus on the satire shown in several scenes. 

Darling Lili is a fine enough movie, best to watch casually. It certainly shows itself to be a product of its time at many points, and it feels far too long for the story it tells, at two and a half hours. The acting and cinematography is excellent, and the issues of the film reside entirely in the script, which is not only confusing, but just seems confused itself. The script cannot decide what audience it is serving and seems out of place in all the niches it could fall into. While the story is cute enough to enjoy, it leaves a lot to be desired for the modern viewer. Darling Lili does an okay job at telling the story it was attempting to tell, but had so much potential to delve deeper into aspects of the war and how the star crossed lovers dynamic of German spy and British general could have played out in a war time romance as seen in the books we have read.

Sources: New York Times Archive, Wikipedia