Thursday, 3 August 2017

Dunkirk

I had mentioned to my son some days ago that if he fancied going to see Dunkirk I would like to go with him.   My brother was at Dunkirk and I remember it vividly.   I was eight at the time and all I remember of it really is the state my mother was in on the actual day he returned.  I am sure that they kept most of the worry and fear from me - or maybe at that age I was too young to understand.    I also rarely remember him speaking of it, although I once caught the tail end of a conversation speaking of young men who couldn't take it any more and jumped overboard deliberately to drown.

It was on the Impact screen at our nearby cinema - it is so long since I went to the cinema that I have never experienced these multi screen places before.   In spite of it being a large auditorium there were probably only around fifty or sixty folk there to see the film - but it was an atrocious night weather-wise.   One thing is for sure - I was the only person in the audience who would have been old enough to remember the real thing.

What did I think to it?   Our reactions were very different, but then we were coming at the film from different places.   My son enjoyed it but felt that in places it was overtly sentimental and 'often too patriotic'.   I was pleased to see that what they didn't do was take a particular family and trace the progress of one man through the ordeal - that would have been sentimental I think.   As it was, as far as I was concerned, it was a fairly factual account of the occasion made just human enough to make it more interesting.   It brought in the role of the small ships very well, their contribution was so important and by the end of the film you knew it.

As for the patriotic angle, I think he has no idea of just how patriotic everyone was during the war.   Almost every household was involved in one way or another - either a son or daughter away fighting or nursing or some other war-related job, or taking in evacuees from the large cities, or in a large city  experiencing the bombing.   And certainly in villages there were always families who had lost a son or daughter and everyone knew about it in such a small community.   There was a desperate need to be patriotic, to keep together, to experience a sort of comfort from patriotism.

I came out of the cinema with a feeling that we as a country had 'won' what could have been an unmitigated disaster which would have lost us the war and it was certainly the aim of politicians at the time to make us feel like that I am sure.   It will be interesting to see if my son puts a comment on here - he does blog occasionally; I will send him an e mail asking him to do so.   Then you can read both points of view.

 Coming out of the cinema to pouring rain - and waking up to it this morning - does nothing to lift the spirits, especially as over on the Continent they have more heat than they can deal with.   I wish they could send some over here.

27 comments:

Heather said...

I don't think I am brave enough to even watch the film, and was protected from the horrors of World War Two to such an extent that I only learned about it when I was a young adult. As a teenager I saw all the war films that came out, and there were plenty. I loved them, but after my son was born my attitude changed dramatically, and I can no longer view them as entertainment.
Looking forward to a change in the weather - today is wet and windy and not very warm. August - what are you thinking of?!

Rachel said...

I saw a minibus load of elderly ladies going in to see the film in Norwich last week when I was at the cinema seeing another film. Your review is interesting and equates with a review I read in the Spectator which made the same point about the film not following a particular family and concluded as you did.

Claudia said...

I am not English myself and I wasn't born until the early sixties, but I have been through war times to know exactly how people felt at that time. You have delivered a very precise account of how people and their small communities feel and behave during war times. I have to admit that my eyes filled with tears.
About the weather, well one is never satisfied with what one gets. Sunny, too much to my taste, and hot out here. Would you please send a bit of rain?😃

Hard up Hester said...

Hi Weaver, I couldn't watch that film, my dad was one of those rescued from the beaches.

Tom Stephenson said...

Some people viewed the retreat as a failure, but others saw it in the more positive light of a successful mass evacuation. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to sit there on the open beach waiting for transport, unable to take cover from the straffing.

Tom Stephenson said...

P.S. I went to Dunkirk on a school trip when I was a kid.Seeing the rusting tanks lying around made it very real to me.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

I remember my grandfather telling me that he had gone to Canada looking for work in 1914, though he was only 17 at the time. He came straight back on the first available ship and made his way home. He was greeted at the door by his mother, but instead of the welcome he was expecting, she told him off for not going to volunteer straight away and do his bit fighting alongside his father and brothers. It's so hard to understand that attitude nowadays.

Derek Faulkner said...

I saw the film the first day that it came out and found it well made and very enlightening. Not being born until seven years after the event I didn't have your family involvement with it and my father was fighting in the Middle East at the time anyway. I find it strange that people find it hard to face watching the film, it's the only way that you can get close to how horrible it all must of been.
As for your last paragraph Pat, wishing for some of the hot weather from the Continent, don't I recall you struggling with it last time.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

It sounds like the cinema trip was a very worthwhile experience for you - partly because it stirred many reflections - personal and socio-historical. I enjoyed "Dunkirk" but the other night I was talking to two friends who had found it unconvincing - feeling it didn't entirely capture a proper sense of the real life drama that unfolded between May 26th and June 4th 1940. They found it too wishy washy and one of my friends said the fact that the film had a 12A rating meant that some of the real life horror and confusion had been toned down.

sackerson said...

"I think he has no idea of just how patriotic everyone was during the war."

I would dispute that. Obviously, I wasn't there - but I guess everybody was very patriotic - but not mindlessly so: they voted for Atlee in 1945 when Churchill thought he had it in the bag. What is different between then and now is that people then had a very real experience of the true personal cost of the war. Now most people only see war in the UK when they go to the cinema. There is all the difference in the world between a patriotism founded on a real fight for life and a patriotism founded on nostalgia and rousing stories.

I personally would rather the film had involved itself more in the lives of its characters. That's one of the strengths of The Cruel Sea, for example, or A Matter of Life and Death.

I found Dunkirk lacking in humanity. I'm surprised people thought the violence in it was played down. There were bombs falling in crowds of men (though, ok, the beach was curiously clear of human body parts straight after) and numerous scenes focusing on drowning in enclosed spaces, burning oil, etc., which briefly reminded me of one of the best films about the war - Das Boot. The difference is, in Das Boot, when the sailors abandon ship and are left to drown in a burning sea, you see the Germans who torpedoed them weeping. No such humanity in Dunkirk, which was far more blasé about the horror of war. Vivid images, yes. Real involvement, no. I was left feeling uneasy at the way patriotic sentiments were combined with a lack of a deeper appreciation of the human cost.

jinxxxygirl said...

My husband had a bad experience while stationed in the DMZ in Korea....and we tend to stay away from realistic war movies.....It can cause 'flashbacks' .... We won't be going to see this movie... Hugs! deb

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Although I thought it was a very well made film, I found it hard to watch. War is hell.

Derek Faulkner said...

sackerson made some interesting and thought provoking points. I do wonder if such similar patriotism would exist today and if the youth of today would be queueing up to fight the enemy overseas, I for one somehow doubt it.

Mac n' Janet said...

Haven't seen it but plan to. I'm reading a biography of Churchill and the part about Dunkirk was very interesting.

Joanne Noragon said...

I can read most accounts of war, but am totally incapable of watching.

John Gray said...

Your review was much more interesting than mine weave

angryparsnip said...

Unless my son wants to go, I am not sure I can see this movie at this time in my life.
I have read many reviews but I thought yours from the standpoint of you remembering it was interesting.

cheers, parsnip

Poppy Q said...

I thought the movie was well done, there were some small annoying things but overall an amazing piece of cinema handled in a challenging and thoughtful manner.

I was astonished when I lived in the UK in the 1990s on the 50th anniversary, to hear callers on a radio show talking about the battle they won at Dunkirk. I think there is a new generation who have never watch documentaries or read any history books. Maybe at least they could learn a little bit from a movie.

Julie

Elizabeth said...

I have heard mixed things about the movie- but your word goes above many who have no real idea of the historical context.
Certainly a moment when everyone in England was on the same team and pulling together.
I must go to see it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I am sure you will have realised that sackerson is indeed my son - I am pleased that he found the time to explain his feelings about the film - he has done so far better than I could have done.
Thanks for all your contributions.

Devon said...

I know this sounds terrible, but I believe having a very real, tangible enemy brings out patriotism. I am from the US and will agree that the younger generation seems very self involved and unpatriotic. In the days and months after 911 everyone became patriotic. We were attacked and had an enemy to fight against.
I have yet to see Dunkirk, but plan to with my 17 year old son. I really have appreciated everyone's input, very interesting.

roth phallyka said...

I thought yours from the standpoint of you remembering it was interesting.


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Rafe's Hotel said...

This reply is a bit past when you wrote this, but I want to thank you for it. It brought up many thoughts. Someone above theorized that young people today wouldn't be as patriotic as England was during the WWII. I agree, but probably not because they *couldn't* be. One, we know so much now about how leaders (I won't use the term 'politicians,' but many were) have manipulated situations, so it does make any young person question putting his/her life on the line. And in this age when countries have the ability to annihilate whole populations with a bomb, one wonders what personal sacrifice on the field of battle means. In WWII, it was easier to see what each person with a gun could contribute. All that said, I think the patriotism is probably still there. When we are threatened now, really threatened, I think everyone would turn out. They just would want to be sure that what they were doing means something.

Your discussion, and your son's addition, have been very enlightening. It is so touching that you remember Dunkirk, how it felt, what it meant at the time. Thank you.

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