Sunday, October 9, 2011
Paths of Glory
After being out all day, I came home and started today's movie - Paths of Glory, directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1957. I never really heard of this movie, which seems sort of surprising. I guess I just assumed that all Kubrick movies are well known. Maybe this is well known and I'm just real dumb...always a possibility. Either way, I was excited to watch it for the first time. It was pretty great. It was fantastic at capturing how awful and nightmarish war can be, and I loved how hard and cold it felt. It was a really well-directed movie, and I'm so happy that I was able to see it - I don't think I ever would have thought about it if it wasn't for this project.
It's not an incredibly complicated story for a war movie, but it works brilliantly. "When soldiers in WW1 refuse to continue with an impossible attack, their superiors decide to make an example of them," IMDB says. That's pretty much perfect. Kirk Douglas is the commanding officer of the group of soldiers, and when they get charged with cowardice, Dax attempts to defend them and save them.
The movie is stunning to watch. The black and white is just fantastic. I love how the movie is so...hard looking. I watched the Blu-ray, and the picture was crisp and clean, but it still felt dirty and cold. It felt nasty. The tracking shots through the trenches were awesome. I loved how Kubrick used some cool angles to show the claustrophobic feeling in the trenches, but also capture the explosions just above the men. It felt like a nightmare. Something about the black and white paired with the cinematography made it feel like it wasn't part of my world, and therefore, somehow more disturbing. More awful, because it felt so foreign and unsettling. Which I imagine that war is.
The story is really interesting as well, and I found it really intriguing. It felt a lot of empathy for the characters, and during the film, it sometimes felt like a bad dream that you can't wake up from (for the characters, I mean). I kept thinking that there was no way that that group of soldiers could be charged with cowardice. There was no way it was even being considered that they would be killed as "an example." I felt really close to the characters. A lot of it was the dialogue - there are some scenes where the men muse over big issues with each other, like suffering and death. These scenes made me feel like I knew them, and it made me care about their fate more than I already did.
There is nothing romantic about this movie. Ebert brings up a quote by Truffaut, who once said that there cannot be an anti-war movie, because the action inevitably argues in favor of itself. We know this. There are a lot of war movies that show "the brutality" but also make it exciting, captivating, and a little romantic. Paths of Glory is a cold movie, a harsh movie, and it pretty much is full of brutality and not much else. It's brilliant because of it. I haven't ever seen a war movie like this one, one that feels so awful. I would never want to be anywhere near the environment that this movie presents. It's got great acting, awesome directing, and is a really unique film. It's short, too, so if you're on the fence about watching it, it won't take up too much of your time. I actually bought this on Blu-ray when I saw it on sale because I knew I had to watch it and I figured I'd like it. I love it, I'm so glad to own it. Let me know if you check this out!
Have any thoughts on Paths of Glory? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Paths of Glory
Buy it on Amazon