I’ve had it with World War II films! Oh… but we are going to continue to see films about its horrors for generations to come. This is assuming -of course- that film will still be around and that no future event is large enough to cast a shadow over it (if there is one I really hope its an alien invasion).
I guess that making stories about WWII is easy due to the fact that it can be easily polarized; it is hard to see Nazis outside a black and white tone and Japanese Imperials are just as easy to caricature. The fact that the Soviets fought for the “good guys” might be the only odd thing within the whole conflict but WWII movies usually to ignore this; at least Hollywood WWII movies do.
Three Years ago Clint Eastwood surprised us with what is possibly the fairest portrayal of this war with his diptych Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima. Eastwood remembered one thing most people tend to forget: the people who fought were not heroes; the people in charge were not monsters; the Japanese were not vile creatures with bad teeth; everyone involved was first and foremost human. And for me that is the scarier part of the whole business. Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot does an equally good job in demonstrating this.
In the past few months we’ve seen Miracle at St Anna directed by Spike Lee and Valkyrie by Brian Singer. The first is in a way a reaction to Eastwood’s films. Spike Lee had stated that Eastwood failed to portray African American soldiers on his films. Thus Spike Lee set off to tell a story that needed telling. But his film does not have the grittiness of Eastwood’s for Lee blacks are victims and he makes sure to tell us so. The villains are everyone else; their white superiors and the Nazis alike while Italians are somewhere in the middle; they are not as bad as Nazis but they are not the heroes of the story either. In the other hand Valkyrie is the story of a German who realizes that Hitler is not the answer for Germany’s problems so he decides to conspire and plot an assassination attempt. It is a well made story of a man who decided not to follow orders, but I find that the story behind Das Boot, about men who did follow orders only to live through them and be heavily disillusioned by the results much more compelling.
In a few months we will be seeing another portrayal of this infamous conflict, this time by the master of pulp and pastiche Quentin Tarantino. I just saw the trailer for Inglourious Basterds (why the hell does he write it with an E) and it is here for you to enjoy. I admit the film looks damn fun. But I guess I do not have to state why such caricature also pisses me off.