21 June 2010 | gatherdust
As good a cinematic representation of the middle class love spent on the Somme
But...but this will not do! General Rawlinson had a moustache! The outrage! And none of the actors looks remotely like the person they're playing! The outrage!
Seriously, there's a lot of lunacy among those enamored with the Great War and all that. Indeed, nowadays, the first world war is big on the tourist map and there's a steady flow strolling along the farm fields and cemeteries in northern France. And accuracy is important. The most accurate detail, however, is to present the tragedy that was the Somme. And folly. What price life? To what end?
But to criticize this production because of minor inaccuracies is to miss the larger truths it reveals. As one of the other reviewers remarked, this movie is truly moving and poetic. It is somber and sorrowful and is closer to Fitzgerald's description in Tender is the Night:
"See that little stream—we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it—a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rags. No Europeans will ever do that again in this generation."
"Why, they've only just quit over in Turkey," said Abe.
"And in Morocco—"
"That's different. This western-front business couldn't be done again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn't. They could fight the first Marne again but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that existed between the classes. The Russians and Italians weren't any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancée, and little cafés in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and weddings at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather's whiskers."
"General Grant invented this kind of battle at Petersburg in sixty- five."
"No, he didn't—he just invented mass butchery. This kind of battle was invented by Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne and whoever wrote Undine, and country deacons bowling and marraines in Marseilles and girls seduced in the back lanes of Wurtemburg and Westphalia. Why, this was a love battle—there was a century of middle-class love spent here. This was the last love battle."
"You want to hand over this battle to D. H. Lawrence," said Abe.
"All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high explosive love," Dick mourned persistently.