Journey's End (2017)
It's only a movie. It's only a movie". We're in a beaten up trench and we know what's coming. Only one character, Second Lieutenant Raleigh, is sparred the knowledge of what will happen three days into his enthusiastic desire to join the front where a family friend, Captain Stanhope, leads the company of ill-fated men. His keen, green, sudden, arrival is to become useful. In the ugliness of what war is, and it is all on display in the trench, the only sign of beauty is the way the men bolster each other. I enjoyed the visual details director Saul Dibb included; the pipe left on the table with it's ember still burning, the effects of Lieutenant Osborne being placed in an envelope (an address not far to our village), and the sharing of bread with the Private soldiers. Cook's humour is a relief compared with the affect-less Generals and Captains. War is abhorrent. The short film was very similar in its dank setting of the trenches. Shocked to hallucination, the sniper adds his pressed flowers to the the leaves of his notebook - men in the pages of history, as his replacement takes up not only gun but book. Both are important viewings on war, stripped of the gratuitous action packed, special effect films flashing enticing machinery. Karen.
I think it is a failing, well unfortunate at least, that I allow 'artistic licence' to overly effect my enjoyment of a film. My own military service was nothing if not undistinguished, and was 60 years after the time in which this film was set, but I just did not recognise as much of the army I knew as I would have liked. Every time, for a perhaps trivial example, the warrant officer was referred to as 'sergeant major' it took my attention away from the moment; the pronunciation should be 'sarnt major' but more than that, there is only one class 1 warrant officer in a regiment, and the most likely rank of the senior non-commissioned officer in a group that size would be staff sergeant. Another minor distraction was the colour of the tracer rounds (frequent white, not occasional orange). I know it's petty, but it did detract from my immersion in the film. I also felt that the fairly simple plot was extended beyond what was necessary to fill 107 minutes. Granted we all knew the outcome, but there was scope for developing the personalities far more. I had the feeling that the film was shot on a tight budget, something that is not necessarily a problem, and as evidence I put forward the short film 'The Collector' we showed earlier in the evening. Clearly a relatively inexpensive film to make, but it didn't matter as the story was conveyed perfectly. As this was not my selection of short film I can say with no fear of immodesty that, as is often the case, I believe it to be better than the main feature. The short film was followed immediately by a film of the war memorial at the local church overlaid with a scrolling list of the 129 local men that are reported as losing their lives in this war. In a village of our size, that's a shockingly large number. To me, that was the most poignant moment of the evening. One enjoyed by a full house of 100 souls even though the weather was atrocious. Eugene.
Before the interval we had our first encounter with a WW1 serving soldier who held tenuous connections with his wife and home by collecting and pressing the few flowering weeds which, like him, struggled to survive in such hostile conditions. Hallucination and compulsion to reach out of hiding and pick a lonely bloom destroyed him. The one thing that had kept him together cost him his life.
The Journey's End is a powerful, gruelling, absorbing, wonderfully produced film. The actors are not only excellent but they were exceptionally well chosen for the parts they played so convincingly. Filmed in almost sepia colours of khaki and rat grey, the only bright contrast (as was pointed out later at the discussion group) was that of the tinned apricots; the only food on the menu likely to give a modicum of pleasure to the men. The futility of the war, underlined by the suicidal decisions the commanders repeatedly made sending soldiers to certain injury or death, is unendurable.
I found the film engulfing and at the discussion group of ten, I felt we were all subdued. Our usual enthusiasm to discuss the film's merits and weaknesses was overtaken by the history and relevance to Rusthall of this particular operation in Northern France.