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Passchendaele (2008)

Passchendaele. Feature film. (2008, 114 mins) IMDB

...it's great to see a Canadian story on screen...

I

say bravo Paul Gross.

As a passionate Canadian I'm biased about this film. I've watched many films and documentaries about both World Wars where it appears as if Canada had nothing to do with either. That's hard to take. It gets me angry especially since some of my uncles fought in both wars.

CNN once showed a graphic: WWII 1941-1945. It's not just Canadians who'd be pissed by such a graphic. A documentary on the DVD for PATTON says as much, "In 1942, just three months into the war..."

Well enough is enough said Paul Gross and I don't blame him.

Canadian soldiers fighting in Europe were fierce. Something about farming and mining and hauling logs will build character that is perfect for the battlefield. One of the things I learned from the movie is the derivation of the word: storm-trooper. The Germans created it to describe the Canadian soldiers they faced. When they saw Canadians were coming, they knew they were in for a fierce battle.

The Canadian Corps took Vimy Ridge when the French and British weren't able and the Americans were back home unwilling. They did the same at Passchendaele.

The film focuses on a portion of the battle of Passchendaele.

The film shows the harsh life on the front lines, the death of battle from hand-to-hand combat to bullets and bombs, but not in the way as is done in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. This film is centred completely on the central characters, and yes it's melodramatic, but when a writer chooses to write about a period in history that involves hundreds of thousands of people, he must choose a point of focus. Focus on a few people and show it from their point of view, or look at the bigger picture and risk not having any emotional involvement. Then once it's decided on who to focus on, he must decide on what makes them tick and in this instance he chose a universal storyline--love.

I won't fault him on his choices or execution of them. The film is effective even though a hundred different stories could have been written with the same title about the same point in history.

I haven't said much about the actual film, but I'll say this. He chose to write a structure that isn't expected for any war film let alone WWI. Our hero has already fought many battles in Europe and returns home where he can stay if he wants, but as circumstances develop, he decides to return to battle. He returned home a hero to some, a coward to some and completely screwed up in his own mind.

We see a range of him that is both heroic and evil. In the opening sequence, he runs his bayonet through the head of a defenceless enemy soldier. The visual on screen is gruesome but the images in his mind about what he did must be worse. A Hollywood star wouldn't go near such a scene. It was brave on Paul Gross's part to put it in and for him to act it and keep it.

Again I say bravo Paul Gross.

Posted 2009/04/25 at 19h42ET in Movie Commentary.

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