Sunday, September 09, 2007

War films flagging

'Flags of our Fathers' is a remarkable film. Since the 1960s we have accepted the message that war is horrible and one wonders what more there is to say on that theme. Before then we had seen war movies as keeping your chin up as our economies recovered from WWII. "Cheer up," they seemed to say, "your sacrifice was worth it."

With films like 'The Damn Busters', 'In Which We Serve', 'Reach for the Sky', 'First of the Few', 'The Colditz Story', 'the Battle of Britain', 'Odette', 'Carve her Name with Pride', and 'The Way Ahead', Jack hawkins, John Mills and Dickie Attenborough represented the common man whose steadfastness and courage carried the day. 'The Great Escape' and 'Where Eagles 'Dare turned the war into a Boy's Own adventure. Viet Nam soured any attempt to make war worthwhile. Lately 'Schindler's List' re-exposed us to the harrowing horror of the Nazi's and 'Saving Private Ryan' to the futility of the trying to order events in wartime.

'Flags of our Fathers' exposes the cynicism of politicians and the exploitation of soldiers. It might have been culled from Rudyard Kipling:

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck 'im out, the brute!"
But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;

Obviously, the story of the photograph of the American Flag being raise on Mt Suribachi which inspired the Washington war Memorial will have more significance for Americans than for me, and the story of Ira Hayes (then played by Tony Curtis) has been told before, but as a foreigner I can still get the irony. This is not an anti-war film, but it disparages the notion of heroes. It was necessary to take Iwo Jima. It was necessary to exploit the victory in order to fund the continuation of the war. But men laying down their lives for the country is a fiction. They died unexpectedly, but when they thought about it they died for their buddies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having never been in combat, I do not know if there is a desire to keep one's country free from tyranny. One does often hear that one fights for one's comrades (if I can use that word without irony).

One can imagine that if the West outlawed Christianity and forced the adoption of Islam as the national religions, then the war against the West would end.

If one is uncomfortable accepting that, then one must get comfortable with the idea of dying to save the West from such a surrender.

Perhaps most on the left would make such a bargain, since they are irreligious anyway. Women would have to get used to being second-class citizens, of course.