Customer Review

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Perspectives on World War I, 23 Feb. 2012
This review is from: The First World War - The Complete Series [DVD] (DVD)
This series is a fine introduction to the First World War. It is important, however, to be aware that this series emphasizes certain aspects of the war but does not give a clear overview of the military course of the war on the ground. Here, there is a lot of time given over to how individuals, leaders and common people perceived the war but the actual conduct of operations is glossed over.
The series is to be praised for bringing to light formerly obscure aspects of the war such as the Ottoman struggle against the Russians which is usually ignored because it was not really strategically significant as was the conflict between the Ottomans and the British in the south. The Armenian tragedy is discussed at some length showing that Turkish atrocities against Armenian civilians was a consequence of military operations in the war and not merely a mindless ethnic persecution. The untenable situation of the Jews in Eastern Europe who were caught between the three different empires which led to expulsion, impoverishment and pogroms is discussed at length showing that these roots in the First World War were merely the prelude to even worse to come.
The most significant novelty of this series is that they go to great lengths to show that the view that the war was not merely a "senseless slaughter" and that the Generals were NOT all a bunch of stupid, arrogant men indifferent to the welfare and fate of their men. The film points out that dozens of Generals on both sides were killed in the war sharing the fate of the men at the front line, so it is wrong to picture them all as aloof people who spent their time at a chateau behind the lines. The series points out that the technology that existed at the beginning of the war led to the stalemate in the trenches and that the Allied military leaders worked assiduously to find ways to break the stalement and that they did learn from their failures, which is what led them ultimately to victory.
It is also pointed out that many if not most soldiers and civilians behind the lines believed in their cause, were willing to fight for their country and the Allied soldiers believed that it was important for the future of liberal democracy that the militarist Germans be defeated. It is true that the war did spawn a lot of nihilistic movements and the war brutalized society making the even greater horrors of the Second World War but the final episode ends on the note that the war did prove to a lot of people that military action can provide solutions to problems for good and for bad and this has been seen in places like the Middle East and the Balkans to this day.
Thus, as I stated above this series is a good introduction to the war, but someone who is interested should pursue other series made in the past, e.g. the BBC's "The Great War" and CBS's "World War I" narrated by Robert Ryan, both of which were made for the 50th anniversary of the start of the war in 1964 and both of which give a clearer outline of the military operations of the war.
As a final note, I like the fact that the film shows modern views of locations seen in the archive films. For example we see photo of the Kaiser, Hindenburg and Ludendorff standing in a doorway at the hotel Britannique (ironical name, isn't it?) which was their Western Front Headquarters. The film then switches to a modern view of the same doorway in color....I found this an effective way to bring these events of the past into our modern conciousness. They also have a rare recording of the Kaiser speaking and we also see him gardening as a elderly man in exile in Holland. These are special historical "treats" I have not seen anywhere else.
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