Tag Archives: War

Hacksaw Ridge

There are many questions you can ask after watching Hacksaw Ridge, the true story about the man who refused to carry a rifle in WWII and who saved countless soldiers’ lives, and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Did it have to be so violent, and did it have to show quite so many dead and maimed soldiers? In this instance less would definitely have been more. Besides, you see less of the film if you have to look away a lot of the time.

Hacksaw Ridge

Did we really need to have parts like ‘corpse with rats #4’ on the cast list?

Couldn’t it have been clearer about when the earlier parts were set? We had to look it up, to ‘unconfuse’ ourselves.

And might it have been better to stick to what surely must have been rules back in the 1940s, like did nurses have long flowing hair on duty?

But the main question must be, if Desmond Doss was able to save 75 wounded soldiers at Okinawa, through sheer determination; how many unnecessary soldier deaths have there been in all other battles before and after?

I am not wanting to complain that others have not done what he did. You need a strong character and plenty of courage to achieve even a fraction of what Doss managed. But seeing that he could return out on to the battle field over and over again, and come back with more and more wounded comrades; how many half dead soldiers do armies leave behind everywhere?

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Dame Vera Lynn: Happy 100th Birthday!

Dame Vera Lynn: Happy 100th Birthday!

It was the old soldiers who made the programme. No matter how much fun it is to hear famous people say lovely things about our Vera Lynn on the occasion of her 100th birthday (Wow!), it was the men who fought in WWII, and who are still with us, like Vera, who started the waterworks, both on me and on themselves.

Hearing Vera discuss the past with her daughter was almost like hearing any mother and daughter pair hark back in time. And that’s good in itself, as it proves how normal she still manages to be. Dame and the forces’ sweetheart she may be, but deep down Vera Lynn comes across like that aunt from east London I never had.

The music specialists had much nice to say, as did those famous people dug up to talk. Odd in a way to have Paul McCartney sit there as though he personally remembered listening to Vera on the radio during the war. Maybe he did.

But as I said, the old soldiers, reminiscing about hearing Vera live somewhere in Burma, or on the radio, and crying at the memories; that’s what made this programme. Telling their own stories, and singing along to We’ll Meet Again, before finally wishing their star a happy 100th. There’s not many of them left.

(Photo © BBC)

The Saboteurs – Kampen om tungtvannet

It’s OK, this new Norwegian television drama about heavy water. So far it’s not as earth-shattering as I was led to believe it’d be, but still fine. The thing is, it’s hard to beat an old Hollywood movie that manages to be fantastic entertainment while still being a bit OTT and not entirely true to reality. But at least this one does not star an unlikely Kirk Douglas.

I don’t know how many people in Britain knew about this incident from WWII before the More4 screening of this big hit from Norway. In fact, I wonder how many Norwegians knew about it. If you’re older you will know, if only because you will have seen The Heroes of Telemark with Mr Douglas. I learned about it at school. It was a school radio programme, complete with leaflet to read, and interviews with the real people involved, who were still quite young, and perfectly alive, in the 1960s. I gather at least one of them still is. You live longer in Norway. Must be all that skiing.

Kampen om tungtvannet

What I like about The Saboteurs, which is a shared production between Norway, Denmark and Britain, is that it covers everyone. The Germans are not merely the bad guys who are going to have that heavy water, no matter what. We see the – slightly mad – scientists, who live for their science. The bosses of Norsk Hydro are quite German-friendly, which comes as a bit of a shock.

There is the slightly unnatural way everyone can chat to each other when they meet, in perfect English or German, but at least we see them ‘at home’ so to speak. It’s obvious that the settings described as London or Scotland are neither, but they try. Rjukan is Rjukan, however, and that snow looks geniune enough.

Two episodes in, I look forward to the rest. If the ending to the second episode had been fiction, you’d have accused the scriptwriters of being over-fanciful.

Woman in Gold

What surprised me the most about Woman in Gold was how much it was about the war. That might sound stupid, but I’d mainly thought about the process of getting a stolen work of art back now, long after the war. And the trailer had been mostly lighthearted, with clever and amusing lines.

Woman in Gold

Don’t misunderstand me; I believe the film was better for all its background, reminding us – and in the case of Daughter, showing for the first time – of what went on in Austria not only during the war, but before it as well. Without it, Maria Altmann could have seemed to be simply greedy and grabbing. In a way this was one of those occasions when you feel that both sides are both right and wrong. Were it not for the fact that Austria took away Maria’s right to the life she was living, when they pulled the rug out from under her feet. As I think she said, it wasn’t so much getting the painting of her aunt back, as getting some recompense for what they did to her family, breaking it up, and killing most of them.

Woman in Gold

I had looked forward to seeing more of Vienna, but in the end it was almost painful. I appreciated seeing the old Vienna, as Maria knew it when she grew up. I’m not Austrian, nor quite that old, but I could recognise some of the life she lived.

Had not realised that Daughter didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, but then it had been some years since we read about Maria and her Klimt painting in the news.

Woman in Gold

I enjoyed Woman in Gold, and more so for it being so European, and not just Hollywood gloss. Helen Mirren can do anything she puts her mind to, and Ryan Reynolds was a lovely Randol Schoenberg. Good to see so many actors employed who are not necessarily English language household names, but who were able to portray Austrians in a believable way.

Ambassadors

It’s been a busy week. As Bookwitch I’ve travelled to Edinburgh three days running. Were it not for that, I’d have attempted to get myself invited to the Grandmother’s neighbour’s flat last Thursday.

This 98-year-old gentleman was about to be visited by the Russian Ambassador, and he had asked the Grandmother to be present. I believe there was some medal that was to be handed over to the neighbour, and at first I thought it unlikely that the real Ambassador would make a house call like that.

But then I remembered that when I was about 16, the then Soviet Ambassador called in at my school. That seemed quite natural at the time, so why not now, if an elderly man was to be honoured?

And only hours before this medal presentation, I managed to squeeze in the week’s NCIS, before dropping off with exhaustion. OK, so they shouldn’t say bad or fictional things about a real Russian Ambassador, which I assume is why they have someone slightly more junior as a recurring sometimes bad and sometimes good character.

But I think of him as the Ambassador, and I’m sure he was referred to as such in one of this season’s episodes. I might have to watch again, just to check. (I’ve been trying to, actually. Just seem to run out of time, which is why I am barely halfway through my private repeats.)

The Imitation Game

I was glad to see they still offered screenings of The Imitation Game this week. I’d stopped being too busy and I’d also decided to temporarily pause my Keira Knightley boycott and actually go and see this film about Alan Turing. I was a afraid it’d be as upsetting as the television programme a while back, but it was more uplifting than depressing, despite poor Turing’s fate.

The Imitation Game

There were things about Bletchley and Enigma I hadn’t actually known before, and it was good to see the story in a different light from the last ones. Benedict Cumberbatch was spot on as Alan Turing. Most of the time. They’d done a fine job of getting the aspie aspects of his personality right, except for when they hadn’t.

You don’t have someone as literal as that, and then make them reply to a heavy bit of sarcasm as though they are neurotypical. I also suspect that Benedict is a capable dancer, and I wouldn’t expect Turing to have been. He was reluctant for a reason. And all that hugging!

The Imitation Game

Nice to have both Allen Leech and Matthew Goode in there, but making them mathematical geniuses is stretching credibility somewhat. Even KK made for a likelier mathematician.

The Imitation Game

Alex Lawther was fabulous as the young Turing; giving us a perfect background to understand where he was coming from.

Very touching, and the kind of film I would see again.

(Just don’t get me started on the train rolling stock…)

Foyle’s curse?

We looked forward to the start of the new ‘season’ of Foyle’s War on Sunday. And the beginning was fine, and we enjoyed ourselves. But at the halfway point the signal disappeared and there was no more for us to watch.

After some frantic investigating we determined it wasn’t our fault. There simply was no signal, but it seems it might have been localised enough that ITV/STV had no interest in being decent about it.

Daughter and I switched to more bingeing on Downton Abbey instead, refusing to let this get us down. But it slowly came back to me, that we have experienced this with Foyle before. In Sweden. Half a programme went missing then, too. Is the man cursed?

We thought we’d watch it on ITV-player. That didn’t work. Eventually we were informed by the younger generation that we needed STV-player, and after too many commercials, we eventually watched, 24 hours later. I say watched, but after ten minutes it broke.

After more faffing about I felt I didn’t have enough interest in Foyle’s pursuits to warrant trying any longer. But the Resident IT Consultant wanted to watch until the bitter end, so we repaired to his desk, where we watched on the computer.

It was OK, -ish. But I’m not sure if I can be bothered next Sunday.