Thursday, May 8, 2014

Time Well Spent


Christmas 1940: Five young people make a promise to meet again in the same location the following year.  What follows is one of the best war movies I have ever seen.

I literally just finished watching this film.  It is a German movie originally called "Our Mothers.  Our Fathers." Generation War is the American title.  This is a three part series that runs almost five hours in length but it is worth every single second.  I have never felt more emotionally invested in a movie in my life.  I found myself angry with the filmmakers for bringing it to a close after a scant five hours.  The drama reaches out and grabs you.  My stomach twisted into knots at some of the more vivid scenes.  Not many movies can do that to me.  In the DVD insert, the director said that he wanted this film to be an homage to the memory of his parents' generation.  One of the characters is based on his father.

I am not going to give away any of the plot because I really think that you need to see this one for yourself.  However, it concerns five young friends, caught up in the events of World War Two.  It is from the German perspective and I know that a lot of people have an issue with films shown from their point of view.  However, I think it does an excellent job of depicting how people can be caught up in events much larger than themselves.  All of the characters have to make difficult choices, some for the better and some for the worse.  You can't help but feel yourself hoping that all of the characters survive to fulfill their promise.

The battle scenes are just as good, if not better, than Saving Private Ryan.  And probably more numerous too as the bulk of the film takes place on the Russian Front.  Fair warning: some of the scenes on the battlefield and in the hospitals are graphic.  The makeup folks do a good job transforming the characters from fresh faced eager young people into hollow eyed survivors by the end of the film.  The story line is also top notch.

Most World War 2 movies that focus on the German side only have three types of characters.  Fanatic Nazis.  Heroic Resisters.  Tragic Victims.  There is none of that here.  Like reality, the film shows that the lines that distinguish right from wrong and good from evil can become blurred at times.  In Europe, some criticized the film for not talking enough about the Holocaust.  However, that is not what the film is about.  I know that when it was released, some Brits and Canadians criticized Saving Private Ryan for not talking about their own countries during the Normandy Invasion.  Just as with Generation War, that wasn't what Saving Private Ryan was about.  The movie does show the brutal nature of the war between Soviet and Polish partisans and the German Army and it does show German soldiers committing horrible acts against the Russian people.  So rest assured, they do tackle the issue of the German Army's involvement in war crimes in a way that a lot of films don't.  Generation War also shows some of the Red Army's war crimes too. (killing wounded German soldiers, rape, etc)  

All told, this is an excellent film and one that every World War 2 enthusiast should own.  It was released here in the States on May 6th.  I pre-ordered my copy and so I got it on the release date.  I waited until today so that I could watch the whole thing uninterrupted.  I advise those of you who watch it to set aside five hours so that you can do the same.  Trust me, you won't be sorry.  If anything, this film will prompt discussion among the current generation of Germans as to what the actions of their grandparents mean in today's world.

P.S. The additional benefit of watching a German movie is German girls!  I am fond of German women.  Especially the little redheaded one that I married.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Half A$$ed Historian.

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