Sunday, July 31, 2011

On War -- #I

My first post on war and guns, about which I feel strongly.  Turner Classic Movies ran All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) last night.  I had read the book almost 50 years ago and thought I had seen the film, but I am not sure that I had.   Really powerful depiction of the truth of war.  Even though we don’t draft young men and send them off into trenches to die by the thousands as human sacrifice (as was done in WWI), it still is about fooling young men into the glory of combat and dying for one’s fatherland.  Nobody tells them about wounds and pain and hunger, PTSD and the feelings that might accompany killing.

One good scene has a half dozen German soldiers asking themselves who benefits from war.  One suggests that maybe at root it is the manufacturers of all their guns and supplies, but they can’t quite understand why even they would want war.  Given the reality of war who could want profits more?  And who can figure how it started or who started it?  Lou Ayers, the star actor was a favorite of my Mother’s, and he became a CO medic in WWII as a result of acting in this film.  I had to sue Ramsey Clark and refuse induction 2 or 3 times (can’t even remember) to get the government to back down, and by then I was in seminary.

Relentless explosions and machine gun fire are a feature of the extensive battle scenes.  Some soldiers go mad from this.  This reminds me of my thought after our band concerts: One should be wary of liking fireworks for they are meant to simulate all kinds of mayhem and destruction.  The soldiers knew that when the shelling stopped and it became quiet – that meant an attack was coming.  The hero learns that he can’t go home again.  He is not the same person he was before the war, and it isn’t about growth.  I will not spoil the ending.  If you don’t know it, watch the entire film.

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