Archive for the ‘War’ Category

The devastating First World War. Four years of chaos and death in Flanders Fields. And at the end there was the Spanish flu.

It’s quite surreal to watch this Flemish series during corona times. But it’s being removed from Netflix by the end of the month and the idea was to finish it before the many professional trips to Ypres next month.

The show is well filmed and there is much eye to detail. The research was done well and the period setting is great. But the over-abundance of storylines is getting annoying halfway into the show. World War I is a fascinating period in history and there are so many facets of the war that were never addressed in major Hollywood movies. But to pack them all into a ten episode series is just not good.

Even though it’s an international production, it is still a Flemish series and the focus is on the story of a Flemish family. This may not appeal to international audiences as they will not understand the many references. We see the family Boesman from Ghent at the outbreak of the war. Doctor Boesman is a gynecologist who wants to become a professor at the university and assumes the war will soon be over. His wife, who is part of the catholic bourgeoisie, is at his side. Their oldest son is ready to go to battle. Their younger son is more opportunist and prefers to stay home and continue his work as as sales person. The daughter is too young to do anything, but she aspires to be a doctor one day, like her dad.

The characters are intriguing and good guides through the thick storybook of little tales about the war. But at one point it’s enough. Everything is mentioned. Briefly and superficially.  The Flemish social pillar system (socialist/catholic/liberal); the subordinate role of women, the Flemish collaboration and resistance, the pop-up brothels for the English officers, the gas attacks, the smuggling, the espionage, the food shortage, the Christmas truces, the war tactics, … and they still add romance to it all as well.

To give you a spoiler example focussing on the daughter. She wants to become a doctor but can’t as a woman, betrays her best friend whose father is German, tries to run errands for the resistance, is attracted to the young German officer who occupies her house, smuggles something across the border to her Grandmother, has an abortion, flees to England, becomes a nurse, meets her brothers in battle, etc… She clearly is the main character of the show, but actress Lize Feryn can’t carry the show. Luckily she is assisted by two actors playing her parents. Wim Opbrouck is great as the collaborating gynecologist and Barbara Sarafian is at her best trying to support her husband’s bad decisions.

Unfortunately it’s not a must-see and even a drag by the end.

www.imdb.com/title/tt2253780

Camille – **

Posted: February 22, 2020 in 2019, Drama, France, War, XX

Camille is a young journalist who made it her ambition to be a war photographer. She is not that successful until she arrives in the Central African Republic, where a civil war is about the erupt between Muslims and Christians.

With little experience and strange looks from more established journalists she gets attached to some local students who allow her into their world.

When the violence erupts she has her first pictures published, which helps the French intervene in the country’s mess. The muslim Séléka, who – according to this movie – are raiding villages, murdering and raping christians, are stopped by the international presence. But this leads to christian Anti-Balaka gangs who take revenge at the muslim population. It’s confusing if you don’t know much about the civil war and this movie doesn’t do anything to help you understand it better. 

No. The focus is on this young woman. A girl really. But rather than giving some kind of insight on why she chose this path, we just get to observe her as she kinda takes sides with he Anti-Balaka. Just because she got connected to one of their new leaders, who she met as a student on her initial journey. 

The movie reminds you of Ghosts of Cité Soleil, where we also get to see how young European women feel the need to be part of some ‘exotic’ nation’s internal problems. We never get to learn why Camille prefers life in danger than staying at home with her family and friends. The town of Angers must be really boring for someone to want to risk getting killed almost every moment of the day. The movie ends with her saying she feels happier in the war zone. Maybe that’s true. We don’t know. She got killed. So we can only guess. 

It’s an interesting movie. It’s based on true fact, but fictionalized a bit as a lot needs to be assumed. The acting by the main actress is good. Not so much by the many extras. And as mentioned before, we don’t get to learn that much about Central African Republic at all. 

Tu viens, tu prends et tu parts. You come, you take and you leave.

This one line in the movie is quite powerful, because it is the truth. It’s said to Camille as a comparison to the French colonizers from not that long ago. It’s amazing how the woman can get the trust of these young people who are her age and live in a total different world. They may be as ambitious and as intelligent and also dream of leaving the place to look for happiness and recognition abroad. But they definitely don’t have the same opportunities. 

Somehow this movie could have been much more. 

www.imdb.com/title/tt9678892

 

 

1917 – ***

Posted: January 12, 2020 in 2019, UK, USA, War, WW1, XXX

The first hour of this Word War I epic is perfect cinema. Once the story reaches the town of Écoust-Saint-Mein however, it becomes a rather unrealistic survival adventure. It’s still good, but it kind of ruins the great storytelling of the first part. And the end.. well, it’s an end.

This movie gives the impression that it is made in a single shot. And it works. Amazingly. This means the storytelling is great ánd the direction was planned impeccably.

Two soldiers need to get a message across to stop a planned attack. That’s it. But what happens next is CINEMA at its best.

Just go see it. It deserves to win all the awards its nominated for.

www.imdb.com/title/tt8579674/

Wunderkinder – *(*)

Posted: December 27, 2019 in 2011, Drama, Germany, WW2, XX

1941. Hanna Reich is growing up in the Ukraine as the daughter of a German beer brewer. She has no friends and loves to play the violin, so with a little help of her wealthy father she gets private lessons from a teacher who also brings the so called wonder kids to her house. These kids are on the verge of a tour around Russia and maybe even America until the war interrupts their dreams.

While Hitler is waging war in the West, Stalin is controlling power in the east. Hannah and her new found friends are growing up in a relatively safe area, until the Nazis decide to expand their territory towards Russia. First, Hannah’s family is a target for the NKVP (the Sovjet gestapo), but once the Nazis take over it’s the family of the wonder kids that become a target. They are, you’ve guessed it, Jewish.

Though the story is fascinating and probably a good read as a young adult historical novel, the movie isn’t all that good. The storytelling is rushed. Moreover, it’s told as a long flashback, allowing the first scene to spoil the end of the story. Why did they decide to do that?

The acting and more precise, the character depiction, leaves much to be desired for as well.You can’t blame directors for depicting Nazis as one dimensional assholes. But you can blame them for depicting any other character as soulless. Especially the kids who are the main characters.

Best scene: the semi nazi sympathizing mother who pulls off her swastika at the end and bleeds. 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1710625/

Werk Ohne Autor – ***

Posted: November 19, 2019 in 2018, Drama, Germany, Romance, War, XXX

European critics didn’t like it. The artist whose life it’s based on didn’t like it either. But lots of moviegoers did and somehow the members of the Academy as well, because this German biopic was one of last year’s nominees for best foreign language film.

It’s a great movie though. Just assume it’s fiction and forget about the artist’s complaints. And expect a simple, superficial overview of what Germany has gone through the past couple of decades. Nazism, communism, capitalism… it’s all briefly mentioned, which bothers a lot of critics, but is well done for an audience who may not be too familiar with the details of Germany’s history.

It does rise some questions about art & artists and governments & ideologies who have their own interpretation of art. It’s very topical right now in a region like Flanders, where subsidies for art projects will  be lowered by 60%. A politician claimed that modern art has lost its beauty and the new artists are too focused on individual expressions, a statement which caused even more controversy than the financial cut.

The movie starts with a young kid visiting an exhibition of entartete Kunst. It’s quite ironic to think that the Nazis showed degenerate art to the masses to mock and condemn it. It must have been a great exhibition to visit if you were interested in different art. Later in the movie the kid has become an adult and paints socialist realism in the DDR under the rule of communists who hate the egocentric aspect of Western art as well. A few years later the artist arrives in Dusseldorf having fled across the border and is confronted with modern expressions of art, which ignore the craft of painting and focus on installations and performances.

It’s an easy movie to love (and for critics to hate). It’s filmed in a very conventional way, but there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned drama. Art doesn’t always have to shock. It can also be just beautiful. And this movie is. The love story is refreshingly simple. The only obstacle in the young couple’s romance is the father of the girl, a conservative opportunist and vile doctor with a dark past.

Watch it.

Unless you don’t like mainstream movies appealing to the masses aged 9 to 99.

www.imdb.com/title/tt5311542

A guided tour of the Leopoldmuseum in Vienna by an art historian who raved about Egon Schiele. That’s all it takes to start watching the biopic that was made of the famous Austrian painter a few years ago.

It’s an interesting movie. It’s well acted, somehow historically correct and it shows the complexity of the artist without really judging him. That said, it’s also quite superficial. And romantic. Egon Schiele was not a handsome guy, yet he’s interpreted by Noah Saavedra – who apart from being an actor also works as a model. This feels wrong. Like having Brad Pitt or so play Van Gogh. However, the guy does an excellent job by keeping you intrigued for the entire length of the movie. Same for Valerie Pachner, who plays his muse and (eternal) lover Wally.

It’s a love story really, but a good one. Without a happy end of course. They all die. And that’s not a spoiler. The title is referring to one of his most famous paintings. A painting which is quite disturbing, something this movie (unfortunately) never does. So Egon Schiele himself would probably not like it at all. But oh well, he died 100 years ago…

www.imdb.com/title/tt4558396

Sarajevo – **

Posted: July 28, 2019 in 2014, Austria, biopic, Germany, Terrorist, War, WW1, XX

This whodunnit … or rather who-ordered-it-to-have-it-done starts off really well. It focuses on one of the most important historical moments in recent history: the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

The protagonist is Leo Pfeffer, the magistrate in charge of the investigation. The case is quite simple really. Gavrilo Princip shot him after an earlier attempt to kill the archduke by other Serbian terrorists failed. They even arrested the murderer and he confessed. So what’s there to investigate?

Well, according to this movie a lot. Like, who ordered this murder? In history class we learn that a group of Serbian anarchists did it. But did they get the order from the Serbian government? Or … did they get the order from German (business) leaders who just wanted to start a war ?

The movie is good. Well acted. Well directed. Well told. BUT it’s focussing too much on the latter assumption. It’s an interesting thought and it’s true that Europe was eager to go to war (at least the German leaders), but we get the point after a while. There’s also a love story, which most likely is pure fictional and was just added for the drama. It’s well thought of, but it does bother the storytelling a bit. The conversations between the characters also feel like these characters know what the future will look like. Which they didn’t.

Still. Worth the watch. And it’s on youtube

www.imdb.com/title/tt3691446