Last night I had the privilege to watch two films put on by my good pal Murray at the Calgary Society for Independent filmmakers. Little did I know that these two films would set the mood so perfectly for remembrance day.
The first film was Paths of Glory, a 1957 film starring Kirk Douglas as a Colonel in the French army, who fights for 3 of his soldiers who have been court marshaled for cowardice in the face of the enemy. The film focuses on the concept of using fear tactics in order to gain control. In this case, the three men are sentenced to death in order to set an example to other troops to obey their commanding officers and to charge head on even if it’s a futile attack. The movie does really well in its way of showing the ridiculousness of the mentality in the army, as compared to the real human emotions behind 3 characters who were chosen by random to be killed. This film made me think of how terribly soldiers were treated during times of war. They became tools of men sitting behind enemy lines; completely disposable. This movie really shows that these people are to be commended for their sacrifices, and even though I completely disagree with the use of violence to solve problems, I do believe that these men are to be thanked for all the shit they had to put up with through those troubling times. I want to also note that the film ends beautifully. After the executions take place, the rest of the regiment is in the bar having drinks, when the barkeep brings out a German girl for their entertainment. She is treated like dirt, being hooted and hollered at by a bunch of drunk men. But a remarkable thing happens….she begins to sing, and the men realize the folly of their ways…and start humming along with her. It was really moving actually, to see these people who have learned to hate their enemy so deeply, to come to the realization that we are all still human, and even though we fight for someone else’s goals, it doesn’t mean that we have to keep this deep bitter hatred in our hearts.
The second film that we watched was a very graphic film called La Nuit et Brouillard. (The Night and Fog) This film takes actual video from the Holocaust, and shows the viewer one of the most disgustingly sad moments in human history. Just watching these crimes against humanity made me feel guilty for not having ben able to do something about it….more then 40 years before I was born. The most painful part of the movie for me was seeing Allied bulldozers scraping up all the dead bodies from the camp ground, and bulldozing them into a big pit. At first I was so furious, because these were people who had been through hell. They had starved, been beaten, humiliated, and seen their loved ones died. And then to top it off, we the “good guys” come in and bulldoze dead bodies…like I cried at how disgusting it was. During the discussion after the film though, we talked about this scene in particular and how it was originally going to be censored out. But the point of this film was not to hide what had happened, but bring it to light, as a reminder to everyone that we have to treat each other well! The bulldozers may have been disgusting to see, but it was an important part of the film. It was just really disturbing for me to see these people who had been through so much, to have their dead bodies not cared for. It seemed to me like it should be an emotional time of anguish, but instead it was just a routine cleanup almost.
These films impacted me greatly. It really saddens me to know that this kind of violence against our fellow man still goes on throughout our world, usually for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. I am happy however to be someone who is able to watch these films and grow from them, and really appreciate everything that I have that is important to me. Isn’t that what remembrance day is all about?