142 of 147 people found the following review helpful
You'll never see a better war film,
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This review is from: Oh! What a Lovely War: The Special Collector's Edition [DVD]  (DVD)
I'm bemused by the tendency to assert that this film is a veiled Vietnam film, "ostensibly" about another war, as this Amazon review puts it. It IS about another war, one that was far more important to the nation where it was written and filmed, and in which the father of writer and director Charles Chilton was killed. Anyway, I watched it as a First World War film, and that is how it has always seemed to me: it comments on all other wars, implicitly, of course.
It's silly to compare or measure this against most other war films, because it is so unlike any other, but it stands out as a dramatic, cinematic, narrative gem. A serious musical about the horrors of war: sounds as likely as a serious musical about living in Nazi Germany. Oh, wait...someone did that too. Cabaret must owe quite a bit to this film, not least in the "tomorrow belongs to me" scene, although they wrote their songs from scratch for Cabaret.
The songs here are real, some the official versions from popular music hall, and some the unofficial versions sung by the troops, with considerably darker lyrics (though they omitted the rudest of the unofficial lyrics). The humour is black and dry as a tomb, and you don't quite know whether to laugh or wince in a lot of places (just do both). But the real beauty of the film is in the settings, which are sparse, only partly realistic, and sometimes subject to extraordinary changes. The most impressive are slow 360 degree pans, during which everything changes behind the camera's back, so that when you get back the character you started with, they are in a completely different situation. These and other rapid scene shifts are part of whole film's unreal, nightmarish quality that matches the subject matter perfectly.
If you haven't seen it, make sure you do. If you saw it long ago and dimly remember it and wonder if it was as good as you remember (or maybe better than you thought), I'd say yes, and you should refresh your acquaintance. This seems an almost absurdly cheap price for it.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Sep 2009 17:08:52 BDT
David Conquest says:
A very thoughtful review - I agree wholeheartedly with the writer. My own view is that the film should be shown to all children who are being taught British modern history - might make them think a bit!
Posted on 2 Aug 2010 23:35:57 BDT
J. Harrison says:
I would certainly suggest that dear Flora reads a little more carefully as there is no implication of this emulating 'Vietnam', simply coming from the era. Other than that, it surely is a film not to have missed for any reason other than the fright of having fought in this era.
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2011 10:35:24 BDT
A. J. Sturgess says:
Surely nobody who has seen this film can ever forget the final , memory-searing imagery of the lengthy pan across the endless white crosses which seem to cover the entire landscape? It's just as iconic as Martin Sheen's head rising from the river in 'Apocalypse Now' ... Two images which stay with you forever and, in so doing, remind you of the terrible histories they separately portray. There's no reason whatsoever to associate 'Oh, what a lovely war' with the Vietnam war beyond the fact that they both focus upon two conflicts with few positive outcomes and a whole history of negative, world-changing consequences.
In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jul 2013 12:27:36 BDT
P. G. Croft says:
I agree with your assessment--this is simply THE anti war film to end them all, regardless of history. Please read my 'comment' to Mr R Jordon's review --2006
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