"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Monday, May 27, 2013

Favorite War Films as Personal Evolution

My Boyhood Favorite: Kelly's Heroes

This film is an action comedy set during World War II. The war serves as the backdrop for a treasure hunt. Sprinkled between sequences of farce and swashbuckling adventure, there are a few moments of touching drama. With the exception of a single tank officer, all of the German soldiers are disposable. Kelly's Heroes never lets the realities of war get in the way of maximizing entertainment value. The flick remains a personal favorite of mine, but not as a war film.

My Favorite as a High School Graduate: Gettysburg

Looking back, I am embarrassed at how infatuated I became with this movie and with one of its main characters. But in hindsight, I must also give it credit for jump-starting my interest in non-fiction history books. There is much to be commended in this film's pensive treatment of individual officers. But in its depiction of battles, it errs on the side of stately and statuesque. One can debate whether or not Gettysburg is guilty of glorifying war. It is unquestionable that many of the movie's fans--myself included at the time--are guilty. Historical fiction has an intoxicating effect. And, to adapt a sentiment from General Robert E. Lee, when we grow too fond of its characters, we may also become too fond of their wars. 

My Favorite War Film as a 30-Something: The Deer Hunter

It may be more proper to call this a wartime film rather than a war film. There are no full-scale battle depictions. The titular image of the movie is a deer hunter not a soldier. Like Kelly's Heroes above, the war is only a catalytic device for a great work of fiction. I see The Deer Hunter as an allegory that hinges on a game of Russian Roulette. 

So asks the allegory: What does war do to a person? What does it do to his friends and family? What does it do to his community? So answers the allegory: drop one to three bullets into a revolver; spin the cylinder to invoke chance; point the gun at your head; pull the trigger. You have a six in six chance of finding out what war does.

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