I'm rather wary of war films. As part of my job I visit elderly people in their homes, and I've known a couple of them to spend their entire lives sitting before the television, watching war-film after war-film. They wake in the morning, put on a war adventure channel, and watch it until bed-time, every day until they die. It's one way to spend retirement, I guess, but one of them shouts and screams death-threats at the films' villains, 'bloody Japs', 'we're gonna kill ya', and so on, and many phrases far too coarse or murderously racist for me to reproduce in the pages of The Penciltonian. War films seem to play to, and encourage, a horrible sort of xenophobia.
For this reason I spent a long while avoiding 'All Quiet on the Western Front', which I'd bought from a very interesting charity shop in Walkley (the right-hand half of the shop was a charity shop like any other, and the left-hand side was a pet-shop. One of the shop assistants was a giant dog). If I'd given the film's packaging slightly more attention it might have allayed my fears. Firstly, the protagonists are WWI Germans, an unlikely set of heroes for an American film, and secondly this is a famed anti-war picture. That's a genre I can more easily get behind.
In Britain today, the old idea that soldiers are all inherently heroic is making a return, meaning that any future wars will be far more appealing to our society. So far as I can ascertain, soldiers have two main jobs: shooting people, and threatening to shoot people if they fail to obey. As a career, it's a very exciting way out of the poverty of austerity Britain - glamorous, masculine, and with the chance to punish the enemies most cursed by xenophobic tabloids. One needn't be heroic to find that appealing. One need only be physically fit. Perhaps I'm excessively liberal, but I favour peacemakers to gun-toting peacekeepers, and find teachers, firefighters, missionaries and (when they're not being scary) police officers more admirable than armed drones.
|The opening slide of the movie
P.S. Happy Poppy Day, if that's what floats yer boat.