Film Review:

1917

 

The madness and futility of the First World War has been the inspiration for many fine films, beginning in 1930 with Lewis Milestone’s version of the Erich Maria Remarque novel, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, which was a daring story for its time, in that it showed the horrors of war from the perspective of German infantrymen.

In Sam Mendes’s ‘1917’, it is the British with whom we sympathise, but in other ways, the themes are similar - incompetent and ego-driven officers, and troops who are treated as cannon fodder. Mendes, however, also gives us officers doing their best in impossible circumstances.

This film is based on a story told to Mendes by his grandfather, Alfred, to whom the film is dedicated. In that respect, it is a very personal project.

But what makes ‘1917’ unique is the way it is filmed as a continuous shot or, at least, the illusion of one. We literally follow the two lance corporals, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay), on their mission to cross no man’s land and reach the Devonshire battalion in order to warn the colonel that they are heading into a German trap and they should call off their attack. For Corporal Blake, this mission is deeply personal – his brother is a lieutenant with the Devons.

We follow Blake and Schofield as they weave their way through the British trenches and then cross the battlefield, avoiding bomb craters filled with water and rotting bodies. Eventually they reach the abandoned German trenches, where a nasty surprise awaits them.

There are heart-stopping incidents along the way, as well as a poignant encounter with a young French woman who is caring for an orphaned baby, a scene which reminds us humanity can exist in the hell that is the Western Front. Possibly the most moving moment of the entire film is the scene involving the hymn ‘Poor Wayfaring Stranger’. It brought tears to my eyes.

‘1917’ does not have leading men in the traditional sense. The two protagonists are little known* actors; their very anonymity makes the viewer’s identification with them much stronger. There are some ‘name’ actors in the film – an almost unrecognisable Colin Firth as the general who sends the boys on their mission, Andrew Scott (Moriarty from ‘Sherlock’) as a world-weary lieutenant who couldn’t give a damn, and the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch in a brief but nuanced performance as the frazzled colonel in charge of the Devons.

‘1917’ is a moving story of the horrors of war. It has already won a Golden Globe for Best Drama and you can expect an Academy Award to follow for the film and its director.


*George MacKay plays a tortured Ned Kelly in 'The True History of Ned Kelly' (2019)  alongside Essie Davis and Russell Crowe.

Deborah O’Brien

26 January 2020

fbook icon 60Launching ‘The Trivia Man’

Meet The Trivia Man 420 

What a great time we had yesterday launching ‘The Trivia Man’ at Hurstville City Library. Thank you to everyone who attended, and special thanks to those who sent or brought flowers. A big thank you to the lovely Sue, head of adult collections at the library, and events coordinator Julieanne for their hospitality and all the work that went into organising things, including the yummy morning tea. I’m also grateful to the delightful Janet Grundy, who has supplied and sold books so graciously at all three of my Hurstville events.

Launch crowd big cropped

Mary Anne and Johns flowers cropped

On the eve of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend and amid an outbreak of flu that has hit so many people, it was wonderful to see such a big crowd. I was thrilled to catch up with singer, songwriter and life coach, Lindsay Drummond, whom I first met when she performed a song she had written about Rose Scott at the eponymous Women Writers’ Festival last year. Lindsay came all the way from the Southern Highlands and here’s a quirky coincidence for you - she’s a much-in-demand trivia host in the Goulburn area.  It was also great to catch up with some colleagues from Sydney Tech High where I taught many years ago. And some of my lovely painting friends were present too (below).

Painting friends cropped

In my talk I discussed the inspirations for ‘The Trivia Man’, my dalliance with Kevin Dwyer which turned into a long-term relationship (four and a half years and counting) and my own connection with trivia and quizzes. I also threw in some trivia questions, all deftly answered by the audience. They, in turn, posed some interesting questions of me – What is it about this fascination our society seems to have with trivia?  Is Kevin based on anyone you know? (Yes, me! Or at least, the nerdy quiz kid side of my personality.) Was it cathartic to write the story? And many more.

Tom Deb cropped 7171Read about the rest of my book tour here.

 

Deborah O’Brien

6 June 2015

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FILMS & TV (23)

Film Review: '1917' 

Film Review: 'About Time' 

Film Review: 'Alone in Berlin'

Film Review: 'Birdman'

Film Review: 'Brooklyn'

Film Review: 'The Dressmaker'

Film Review: 'The Fault in Our Stars' 

Film Review: 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Film Review: 'The Hundred-Foot Journey'

Film Review: 'Jersey Boys'

Film Review: 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Film Review: 'The Monuments Men' 

Film Review: 'The Revenant'

Film Review: 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Film Review: 'Their Finest' 

Film Review: 'Twelve Years a Slave'

Film Review: 'The Water Diviner' 

My Four Favourite Stories about Platonic Love

My Top Five Films about Politics 

My Top Ten Romantic Comedies

TV Review: Reality Big Guns

A World Without Books: Fahrenheit 451

A World Without Downton: the 'Downton Abbey' Finale

 

HOME IN THE HIGHLANDS (5)

Home in the Highlands: Autumn   May 2018

Home in the Highlands: The Flying Carpet  July2018

Home in the Highlands: A Tale of Two Chandeliers  April 2018

Home in the Highlands: The Secret Garden  April 2018

Home in the Highlands: Finding the Dream Home  March 2018

 

COUNTRY LIFE (7)

Alpacas Versus Llamas

The Case of the Missing Monotremes

A Country Sunday

Country Ways

Frosty Tales

Life with a Platypus

When a Platypus's Fancy Turns to Love

 

ON WRITING (30)

Adverbs and Chocolate

An Aspiring Author's Guide to Book Jargon

Attack of the Anachronisms

Book Review: 'Kakadu Sunset' by Annie Seaton

Book Review: 'Lake Hill' by Margareta Osborn

Book Review: 'The Princess Diarist' by Carrie Fisher

Crafting Characters (Guest Post for 'Hey Said Renee')

The Cutting Room Floor

Five Things I Love About Writing Fiction

Free Bookmarks to Download

Happy Endings

How Big Is Your Book?

My Four Favourite Stories about Platonic Love

My Five Favourite Books about Unrequited Love

The Five Books That Have Influenced Me Most

My Top Three Tips for Aspiring Authors

My Top Six Tips for Writing Historical Fiction 

Never Write When You're Hungry

Old-fashioned Heroes

Q&A with Annie Seaton, author of 'Kakadu Sunset'

Review: HOPE'S ROAD

Rose Scott Women Writers' Festival 2014

Spot the Anachronism!

Trivia Isn't Trivial

What Makes a Good Tagline?

Why Is a Book Like a TARDIS?

The World of the Book

A World Without Books: Fahrenheit 451

Writing and Art

 

DOGS (7)

About A Dog

A Bonzer Aussie Dog

Country Dog

Lost and Found

Molly Grows Up

Puppy Love

Puppy Proof?

 

RECIPES (2)

Yummy Chocolate Mousse

Zucchini and Herb Frittata

 

SEASONS (7)

Christmas

Christmas At My Place

Meet Mrs Christmas

My Christmas 2014

Ode to Spring

When Winter Comes Early

A Winter's Tale

 

HISTORY and NOSTALGIA (8)

The Beatles and Me

Déja vu: Lessons from the Spanish Flu

Elegant Architecture

A Gallipoli Story: Finding Uncle Arthur

A Gallipoli Story: The Lost Shearer

'He Who Would Valiant Be'

Recreational Sewing in Cesarine

Tales of the Emporium

The Victorian Art of Scrapbooking

 

CAMILLE DUPRE

Researching 'Camille Dupré' 

The 'Camille Dupré' Songbook

 

MR CHEN'S EMPORIUM (8)

Amy Duncan and Her Books

An Aladdin's Cave

Anatomy of a Gold Rush Town

Angie's Westerns

An Emporium by Any Other Name

In Search of the Emporium

Inspirations for 'Mr Chen's Emporium'

The Jade Widow@Mr Chen's Emporium

 

THE JADE WIDOW (7)

The Amazing Mr Carroll

The Colour Lilac

Fairytale Turrets and Other Fantasies

'He Who Would Valiant Be'

Introducing 'The Jade Widow'

The Victorian Art of Scrapbooking

Writing 'The Jade Widow'

 

A PLACE OF HER OWN (4)

Emporium Trilogy Quiz

First Impressions

Launching 'A Place of Her Own'

My Next Book: 'A Place of Her Own'

 

THE TRIVIA MAN (11)

A Bookish Trivia Quiz

Another Bookish Trivia Quiz

Launching 'The Trivia Man'

Meet the Cast of 'The Trivia Man'

The Nerd as Hero (Guest Blog at Dark Matter Zine website)

Quiz Kid?

Trivia Isn't Trivial

The Trivia Man Blog Tour

'The Trivia Man' Competition

The Trivia Man Is Coming

'The Trivia Man' Trivia Competition

 

 THE RAREST THING (4)

'The Rarest Thing' Blog Tour 2016

'The Rarest Thing' Book Tour 

'The Rarest Thing' Playlist

What is 'The Rarest Thing'?


 My Blog fbook icon 60Cropped Media DOB

 

 

 

 


 

View all the articles by date from the most recent here.

View all the articles by theme here including my film reviews and Home in the Highlands articles.

 


 

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An immersive film about the horrors of trench warfare

fbook icon 60A Gallipoli Story: The Lost Shearer

Grandad soldier cropped resized 

In early 1915, a 22-year-old shearer from Parkes NSW by the name of Arthur Hill was one of thousands of valiant young men caught up in the fervour to enlist in a war raging on the other side of the world between Britain and Germany and their respective allies. It was a time when Britain was seen as the Mother Country, Australia as one of His Majesty's dominions, and what better cause could there be than to serve Empire, King and Country? 

On 30 January Arthur joined the 2nd Battalion of the newly formed AIF and began his training at Liverpool Barracks on the outskirts of Sydney. For a country boy, it must have been quite an experience – away from home for the first time and raring to embark on a ‘great adventure’. Three weeks later he overstayed his leave by twelve hours and was fined five shillings. His commanding officer noted that his general character was good. By April Fools Day his skylarking had escalated. This time he was found guilty of riotous behavior, obscene language, breaking camp and using a forged pass. Major Baxter fined him forty shillings (a huge sum in those days) but deemed his general character to be ‘fair’. 

On 10 April Arthur embarked on the HMAT ‘Argyllshire’ for the Dardanelles. On 7 June he was killed in action. He had just turned twenty-three. His military records give no indication of what happened in the eight weeks between leaving port in Sydney and his death at Gallipoli. He was buried at Brown’s Dip (also known as Victoria Gully) just behind Lone Pine. In 1923 all 149 Australian soldiers buried at Brown’s Dip were disinterred in the presence of chaplains, and moved to the Lone Pine Cemetery, owing to the instability of the Brown's Dip site. There is no epitaph on Arthur’s gravestone.

Arthur Hill was my great uncle. Not a single picture of him survives, so I have included one of my grandfather, Arthur’s younger brother, instead (see above). Grandad joined up in 1916 and was gassed at Messines on the Western Front but survived the war. He had a collection of WWI photos including some of Arthur, but they were stolen from his garage back in the 1970s, together with the medals awarded to him and his dead brother. Among them was the ANZAC commemorative medallion issued in 1967. I do, however, recall seeing the pictures when I was a child. My teacher had asked us to compile a family tree. I happened to mention the project to my grandmother, who produced a box of precious sepia photographs for me to look at. The image I can still remember after all these years was a portrait of my grandfather in his uniform, standing beside a Zulu warrior, obviously taken in or near Capetown en route to Britain. As for Uncle Arthur, I must have seen pictures of him, but to my great regret, I didn't pay much attention.

A hundred years after his death, there is little tangible evidence of Uncle Arthur’s life. He was single, just starting his life. No wife, no children, therefore no direct descendants. After his death, the army sent his father two brown paper parcels containing a disc, a purse and a personal letter. Later there was a photograph of the grave. 

In this digital age, Uncle Arthur’s service records are accessible online via the scanned documents in the National Archives. That means I can actually see his handwriting on the attestation papers. I can picture him from the description recorded by the enlistment officer: tall (6 feet ¼ inch), dark complexion, dark brown hair, a scar on the right forearm. And, of course, I can glean that he was a real larrikin with a healthy disregard for authority. I’m not sure what his niece, Elizabeth, now in her eighties, would make of Arthur’s misdemeanours. Rest assured I have no intention of telling her, for fear it might tarnish the idealised image she has of her uncle. For my part, Uncle Arthur will always be a hero. 

Just this week I’ve discovered a wonderful resource called the First AIF Database, part of the First AIF Project (www.aif.adfa.edu.au), where there’s an entire page devoted to Arthur John Hill. He has a place of his own at last. Just in time for the hundredth anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign.


Deborah O’Brien

23 April 2015


 

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