I remember a friend in the Army telling me about his father being an American GI based in Northern Ireland before D-Day. One cold day, a beautiful, uncoated Northern Irish girl walked by his father out onto a long quay very purposely. He soon realized she was intending to throw herself off the end of it into the cold North Atlantic ... to her death ... unless someone stopped her. Maybe she had betrayed a British husband or fiancé off serving somewhere and was pregnant. Maybe she was in remorse because he had been killed. Maybe she had been raped.
He didn't know, and he didn't care. He let her walk on out to her cold, lonely death. He figured - *rationalized* - that so many people were dying in the war ... that he very likely would soon be dead in it ... that someone who didn't want to live didn't deserve to. (*I* would have gone running after her to stop her. Maybe she would have even given herself to me in gratitude. Regardless, as a guy I would have had and felt an obligation to try to stop her.)
I didn't express to my buddy my horror at and contempt for his father, but I could tell his father's story - coldness - had affected him ... too.
A Soldier's Tale is so unique and hardhitting, I wonder if it too is based on a true story. Over here in Norway, Norwegian military personnel are drilled in the seriousness of the moral and legal responsibility for taking human life - which I don't remember from my own training as a volunteer draftee in the (U.S.) Army, Jan67-Jan69.
In World War 2 most soldiers were not professionals but soon had life and death power over the enemy ... and others ... nonetheless and got the thrill of that kind of power. This seems apparent in the film.
By the way, I don't think the film is any allegory of the Western Allies: Britain and the U.S. liberating and protecting Occupied France, judging by the outcome.
Indeed, you are left with the disturbing question of whether Byrne's soldier was an angel or a monster ... and the increasingly disturbing realization he was the latter ... regardless of any "humane" intentions he may have thought he had.
Gabriel Byrne was the perfect actor for this: thoughtful, deep, quiet, and shockingly unexpected. He is an historically great actor - fully equal to Olivier, Guinness, or any of the others but in his own original style.
The one time I saw the film it made me very upset - even angry - and I think it was intended to do exactly this, to force us viewers to think morally and draw our own difficult judgments.