26 October 2008

...And Now I'm Cold Again.

I posted a week or so back that I was growing to like the idea of the movie Passchendaele. I had seen a documentary on the making of the movie, and in it the star/writer/director was making some good noise about what he hoped to achieve. I was looking forward to see it, and now I have.

It was a disappointment, to put it mildly. The movie should have been called "Calgary", because the majority of the flick takes place there. I had said before I was afraid the love story element of the movie would weaken the focus of the movie, which should have been the battle. As it turns out, the love story didn't weaken the movie, it eviscerated it. The titular battle of the movie is reduced to a skirmish at the end. The whole story is about a fictional Canadian soldier and his fictional love, of two scarred and broken people finding each other against all odds. Of how they loved as no one has loved before or since and how they impossibly get together and etc etc etc.

What should have been the climax of the movie was the capture of the desolate moonscape that was all that was left of the village of Passchendaele, with soldier perhaps reflecting bitterly that it was not worth the price. The movie should have had its villain in General Douglas Haig, Commander of the Forces of the British Empire and all round incompetant. It was he who decided to continue the battle long after there was no point because he knew he would be sacked if he could not claim to have captured at least one objective. It was for this that the Canadians were sent in to capture the village, despite the Canadian general's warning that it would cost 16,000 casualties and it was not worth one drop of blood. The story should have included the eyewitness accounts of the battle, encompassed the experience of many units, told the story of the Canadian Corps and the horror and the futility our men had to bear time and again throughout the war focused on this one nightmare of mud. That movie would have been a horror, but it could have awakened in people a sense of the horror our men faced time and again.

Instead we have a love story, and Passchendaele is in the background. Instead of learning about the real sacrifices of our men, we learn of the non existent sacrifices of a fiction. The director even twice denies a historical event that has been documented in favour of his own fiction.

Our people deserve better. Our men deserved better. Gross, the director, said he was bringing history to the screen. He didn't.

I am disappointed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't that the Canadian film that got Alexis Hannun Helmer's name wrong re the McCrae poem story ?
Think he was referred to as 'Alexander'.