I was quite excited to see Sir Sam Mendes’ World War I drama “1917” at the cinema.
Not least of all because our local cinema here in Dundee has just introduced swanky reclining chairs!
By the time Mrs Digital Ed and I got round to going, there was quite a bit of buzz around the film. It had already picked up Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and had been nominated for a whopping ten Oscars.
Much of the pre-release focus had been on the way in which it had been filmed and edited.
It was made to appear as if the whole two-hour film was completed in two, long camera shots.
It sounded a bit gimmicky to me. Like that brief time in the late Nineties when every film was released in 3D, whether it added anything to the experience or not.
But it didn’t take long for me to feel the full effect of this directorial trickery.
“1917” follows two British soldiers serving in France, who are tasked with crossing No Man’s Land to deliver a important message to another battalion.
While perhaps not as tense as Christopher Nolan’s fantastic “Dunkirk”, it is utterly relentless.
With only one visible “cut”, the audience has no time to take a breath. Instead, they are forced to follow the soldiers’ every step — from cautiously picking a path through not-quite-abandoned German trenches to a deadly game of hide and seek with the enemy in the bombed-out ruins of a French village.
It’s a strange feeling when the respite finally comes. You feel as though you can suddenly take the time to blink or breathe. But you’re almost distrustful of it in case someone sneaks up on you!
The effect is a strange one. At the same time you feel as though the film has gone by in a flash, yet lasted a lifetime.
It really is an amazing experience, and a great tale of heroism in the face of adversity.
And the recliners made it better, of course!
The film is dedicated to the director’s grandfather, the British-Trinidadian writer Alfred Mendes. He served in the 1st Rifle Brigade in Belgium, winning a Military Medal in the process.
Like so many, Alfred had trouble telling his family stories of his time on the battlefield. But when he finally did, those stories obviously had a profound effect on a young Sam.
There are so many personal stories from both World Wars still waiting to be told.
I hope the deserved success of this film encourages others to seek them out, and to share them with a new generation.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to make do with buying “1917” on DVD when it comes out!
For more from the “Friend” team, read our blog here.