World War One has been depicted on screen so many times over the years, both on the big and on the small screen.
There have been many films on this subject that have horrified and moved us. These films have been able to give us a little more understanding of the horror, the pain and the terror endured by the soldiers fighting on all sides in that senseless mass slaughter.
The following five films focus on different aspects of the war – some focus on the fighting, while others take a look at what happens when soldiers return home. These five have become my favourite films about this conflict. I’m not saying that these are the five best films out there about WW1, but they are all very good, and I recommend each and every one of them.
King And Country(1964)
This is one of the grimmest films about this war ever made. The trench sequences are so realistic and they are very difficult to forget. This film really gives you a good sense of the hellish conditions that the soldiers faced and endured throughout the war.
The film focuses on a shell shocked soldier(Tom Courtney) who is on trial for cowardice after he leaves the battlefield. The soldier’s fate lies in the hands of the lawyer (Dirk Bogarde) defending him.
Based on Pat Barker’s 1991 novel of the same name, this seriously underrated film focuses on a group of soldiers being treated for shell shock and psychological trauma at a private hospital in Britain. It is a grim and deeply moving look at the damage done to so many who fought.
I don’t think those who survived this horror were the lucky ones, because they had to live on with the horror they had witnessed, and so many were psychologically damaged beyond repair. Jonathan Pryce is excellent as the doctor trying desperately to heal the damaged men, while he himself is struggling to deal with the horrendous stories and disclosures that he is hearing from his patients. Strong performances from the entire cast.
All Quiet On The Western Front(1930)
This is not only a must see for its realistic recreations of the fights and the battlefields of WW1, but also for its depiction of the brutal realities of war. The film begins with idealistic young German men being encouraged to fight for their country. They go off expecting to be embarking upon a great adventure that they will enjoy.
When the boys arrive at the front, they quickly discover that there is nothing exciting about war at all. War is ugly, war is terrifying, and war is the greatest horror imaginable. This is one of the best WW1 films ever made. I highly recommend it to anyone who has never seen it before.
The film is based on the 1928 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. The book, it’s sequel, and the film itself, were all banned by the Nazi’s when Hitler and his party came to power. Many of Remarque’s other books were banned and burnt. He fled Germany with his wife, but his younger sister was tried in German court for undermining morale after she stated that she believed the war was lost. His sister was found guilty and was beheaded in 1943. Remarque never knew of her fate until after the war, and his 1952 novel Spark Of Life is dedicated to his sister.
A Month In The Country(1987)
This quiet film focuses on the emotional scars left on veterans of the war. Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh both deliver moving performances as two men scarred equally by their time in the trenches. Both men meet at a church in the countryside after the war has finished.
Colin’s character is restoring a medieval mural on the church wall, while Kenneth’s character is an archaeologist searching for an old grave believed to be somewhere on the grounds. Both men put up a brave facade in public, but each of them hides terrible pain. This shows you how brave the soldiers were who tried to carry on with normal life, even though they were in hell on the inside.
Famous for its spectacular aerial battle sequences, Wings shows us the youthful innocence of young recruits being shattered by the grim realities of war. This film focuses on two friends who join the American airforce and go off to fight.
One of the most striking images of the film(which I used in my blogathon banner)is of a plane landing on a field next to a hill, as far as the eye can see this land is covered in the graves of dead soldiers. This shows you the cost of war and is interesting because it focuses on the war in the air, rather than on the war being fought in the trenches which we are all so familiar with. This film would also go on to become the first film to ever win the Best Picture Oscar.
What do you think of these films? What are your favourite films about this war?