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

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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

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'?


fbook icon 60Country Dog

Angel 001

Last weekend we took Angel to our cottage in the country. She rolled around in the fallen leaves and dug holes in the lawn. She even had her first encounter with a bull. Fortunately there was a fence between them. When the bull tired of Angel’s barking, he charged at her and she ran away and hid in the shed.

Note the ears - she takes after her mum, Halo. The single upright ear gives her a constantly quizzical look.

 Angel 002


Angel 003


Angel 004


Angel 005

Deborah O’Brien

July, 2013


fbook icon 60Spot the Anachronism

 

Recently, while I was doing a clean-up, I found this little drawing among my primary school exercise books. It was TJW Lady Sketch02probably an illustration I'd done to accompany one of my 'historical' stories. No trace of the actual tale remains.

Looking at the costume, I suspect the story was set in the Wild West. As a little girl, I used to fantasise about being Miss Kitty from 'Gunsmoke'. I thought she was the most beautiful woman on television and the fact that she ran a saloon didn't bother me at all. I had no idea that a saloon would usually incorporate a brothel. And even if I had, I wouldn't have known what a brothel was! Then again, Miss Kitty always seemed rather prim and proper - more like a schoolmarm than a saloon keeper.

American Western shows seemed to monopolise Australian TV screens back then - 'Rawhide', 'Daniel Boone', 'Gunsmoke', 'Wagon Train', 'Bonanza', 'Cheyenne', 'Sugarfoot', 'Lawman', 'Rin Tin Tin', 'The Rifleman', 'Wyatt Earp' and 'Maverick'. (By the way, you won't find a more gorgeous Western hero than James Garner's Bret Maverick.)

Knowing very little about history - except that it happened in the past -I was under the impression that cowboys coexisted with Vikings (who had come to my attention thanks to a movie with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis!) I also assumed that cowboys were contemporaneous with knights, fair damsels and the Age of Chivalry. I had no idea about timelines or chronology. In my ignorance, I filled my stories with a cast of characters from different centuries and disparate continents. No wonder my parents used to stifle a laugh whenever I would read my latest effort out loud.

What I find particularly funny about this childhood drawing is the unintentional anachronism. Can you spot it?

Yes, my nineteenth-century lady is wearing nail polish!

And I have a confession to make - even now I can’t draw hands!

The other thing that makes me smile is the cameo pendant my lady is wearing – an exact copy of the one which belonged to my grandmother, May O’Brien.

I used to beg my poor grandmother to lend me that cameo. Eventually May gave in, letting me wear it for special occasions, though I always had to return it afterwards.

‘Please let me keep it,’ I used to whinge.
DOB Styled 3

‘When you’re fifteen,’ she replied.

To a nine-year-old, that seemed like a lifetime.

My relentless entreaties must have worn her down because she gave me the pendant for my thirteenth birthday, and I’ve treasured it ever since.

In fact, a version of the cameo appears in MR CHEN’S EMPORIUM among Amy’s keepsakes. Here's a picture of the real thing. The stunning bracelet was my grandmother's too. She was a very stylish lady. 

Deborah O’Brien

July 2013


fbook icon 60Puppy-proof?

Angel 110613 


Everyone knows about the importance of making a house and garden puppy-proof, but has anyone ever mentioned the owner? Based on recent personal experience, here are seven suggestions for making yourself puppy-proof.

1. Don’t wear dangling ear-rings or long necklaces in the presence of a puppy – they’re an invitation to demonstrate her high-jumping skills and to make off with a shiny trinket to add to her collection of sticks, feathers, rocks, leaves and other collectables.

2. Scarves are also a no-no, unless you want them shredded.

3. Don’t wear fluffy slippers or shoes with bows, laces, trims or tassels. Far too tempting.

 4. Speaking of tassels, avoid them altogether. Tassels and fringes hold a mysterious fascination for puppies.

 5. Tie your hair in a ponytail; otherwise when you bend over to pat your pooch, she may leap up and take a nip at the dangling strands and you will find yourself screaming in pain and gazing sadly at a bunch of your own hair sticking out of a puppy’s mouth. (I’m not kidding!)

 6. Don’t wear your expensive new woollen jumper unless you are happy for puppy claws to create holes and pulled threads. Likewise for new tights and pantyhose.

 7. I’ve mentioned dressing gowns before, but this bears repeating. Those ties are irresistible to a curious canine who lives to chew.

And finally, keep in mind that there is no malicious intent behind your puppy’s errant behaviour. Just a little too much enthusiasm, combined with the misapprehension that you are wearing these things purely for her entertainment.


Angel PWK4227

Deborah O’Brien

July, 2013


fbook icon 60A World Without Books: ‘Fahrenheit 451’

 

I’m an inveterate movie buff. Whenever I pass Sanity or JB Hi-Fi and spot a sign saying ‘3 for $20’, I can’t resist riffling through the rows of DVD cases in the hope of finding a treasure. Last Friday I came across a gem – François Truffaut’s film of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, wedged between a rather mundane rom-com and a very average thriller.

I was so shocked to find the classic film that I immediately clutched it to my heart, afraid some passerby might try to wrest it from me, like those rabid shoppers fighting over shoes at the Boxing Day sales. But nobody showed the slightest interest in my discovery. So I quickly chose another two, rushed up to the shop assistant and handed over twenty dollars.

I must have been fifteen or sixteen when I first read ‘Fahrenheit 451’ and I recall being mesmerised by the surreal world it posited, a place where books are illegal; where neighbours and work colleagues inform on those still harbouring the forbidden volumes; and teams of firemen are despatched to burn them.

It’s been my experience that the film of a book is rarely as good as the book itself, but this one is an exception. In the sure hands of director Truffaut the story transfers brilliantly from page to screen. For me, the most spine-chilling scenes feature the red fire truck with its crew in their black uniforms racing along the road to the accompaniment of a Hitchcockian musical soundtrack. Those images become an ominous refrain running through the film.

There are fine performances from quintessential Sixties actress, Julie Christie and wonderful Austrian actor, Oskar Werner, who made his name in Truffaut’s iconic ‘Jules et Jim’ a few years earlier. He plays fireman, Montag, while Christie has dual roles: as Montag’s Stepfordesque wife, Linda, whose happiness is predicated on tranquilisers and watching large screen TV; and as a young woman called Clarisse, who secretly reads books and encourages Montag to question the system.

Although the film was made in 1966, it hasn’t really dated. The locations are perfect – the firehouse is a monumental grey building that could have been designed by Albert Speer and there’s a Space Age suspended monorail speeding across a rural landscape. According to the Bonus Features the monorail scenes were filmed in France where a prototype had been built in 1959 and ran along a short track.

For those who aren’t familiar with Bradbury’s novel, the title refers to the temperature at which paper starts to burn. Why burn books? Because they introduce readers to fictional worlds and alternative ideas that can inspire them to question the lives they lead and the values of the society they live in. In a repressive society, that can only lead to dissent. And a totalitarian regime doesn’t tolerate dissent. Which is why the Nazis burned books in 1930s’ Germany.

If all this sounds rather bleak, let me assure you that Bradbury’s story isn’t without hope. There are those who flee the repression and establish a new society where books are both the focus and the raison d’être. I won’t spoil it for you by revealing exactly how this happens. But it’s something which will resonate with 21st century readers, who are witnessing the most dramatic changes in the production of books since Gutenberg invented the printing press.

We’ve all heard the doomsayers predicting the demise of the book. And although the days of print books may well be numbered, it doesn’t mean books as such are endangered. ‘Fahrenheit 451’ shows us that a book can take many forms, and ultimately it is the words and ideas that count, not the format in which they are presented.

 

Deborah O’Brien

June, 2013