It has been a very long time and it seems almost pointless to start cleaning out the cobwebs so one will just work through them and hope that they slowly vanish! So rather than dwell on the umpteen goings on lately and on my absence and complete lack of will to write, I will review Dunkirk.
I have to admit that I had to run to Google for a list of Christopher Nolan movies and when they came up, I thought “but of course!”. I also ‘studied’ up on the events at Dunkirk before going for the movie because the online reviews seemed to suggest it. Finally, it didn’t seem like a movie that would makes sense without some prior preparation.So armed with some basic knowledge, rather low expectations but good reviews we hit the 8.30 pm show in Friedrichshafen on a Saturday night.
Now, war movies are a dime a dozen. Every director probably has one to their name and each one has their ‘trademark take’ on it. We went through the ‘loud’ era when, possibly, the technology of dubbing gunshot and aircraft sounds were invented. Which was followed by the ‘scale’ era where one could show, either through funds or CGI, the vastness of the war field and the sheer number of soldiers and casualties. Then there was the blood and gore era where limbs were being shot off and the disturbingly realistic portrayal of the painful horror of war was literally and figuratively exposed to do that just – disturb. But to my recollection I have never seen a near silent war movie. Silence is usually reserved for either silent movies or the lack of dialogue is usually overrun with blaring sounds for effect.
Dunkirk has sound, used to absolutely stunning effect, and never in place of the absent dialogue. The dialogue is loud in its absence, because there is no need for verbal expression. You are dropped smack in the middle of hopelessness. What do we have when we are surrounded by hundreds, each of whom is all alone. We have the noises around us and the will to survive. How does one ‘show’ the will to survive. Like this.
No blood, no gore, not too much noise and hundreds of people milling around. Just us, with the few characters; stranded on a beach, hours away from home; sitting on a boat heading towards an uncertain war zone, sitting in a fighter jet with your heartbeat thumping in your ear and the vast expanse of sky above you while another plane crashes into the ocean below.
Dunkirk was a marvel is war movies precisely for it’s lack of typical ‘war’ cliches. It doesn’t matter if every historical fact was accurately represented. It doesn’t matter, in this particular instance, if the Indians or the French were not explicitly shown, it doesn’t matter if the horror of maimed and injured was not visible through blood and limbs. Because Dunkirk is not a feel good movie. It is an artistic cross-section of a specific instance in time and it duly exercises it’s artistic liberties.
It does not glorify how the ‘British with help from others overcame the trying circumstances’ and what have you, but shows war for the hopeless, abysmal waste of life that it is. It exposes the raw, seemingly mundane realities of war especially in an exceptionally desperate situation like the events at Dunkirk where it is over but not really over for these hundreds of thousands of soldiers – who are humans at the end of the day but dehumanised by the circumstances.
And this is the mark it left on me. A hopeless slice of history converted to an experience.