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World War I rarely becomes the backdrop for film stories. It is hardly surprising. Focused on the trenches, the battles were not as spectacular as the Blitzkrieg, aerial clashes over England, or US operations in the Pacific. 1917 from the very beginning, therefore, gains on uniqueness as one of the few productions that tried to show life in the trenches. And this is how the film begins. From the green, picturesque meadow we quickly get to the place where British soldiers are stationed.

The main characters, privates Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) receive from the command a very important task – to provide the order to cancel the attack on the allegedly retreating Germans. Well, the enemy does not run away at all, but only gives the impression to drag 1600 day soldiers stationed away from here into the trap. Among them is Blake's brother, which is probably also why he was chosen to carry out this mission. Schofield becomes the same hero from chance – unaware of anything, Blake takes him with him even before receiving orders. However, he will play the first fiddle as the action unfolds.

This way our journey begins. Literally a journey, because the movie is filled with long shots of a camera traveling with the characters. In film art, this is called a mastershot – apparently the whole film was made on one long shot, but it's rather a marketing gimmick, because the cuts are masked. The smooth movement of the camera shows Blake and Schofield walking through the trenches. More soldiers pass by. Some sleep covered with blankets. Others write letters. Someone is digging somewhere. Life in the trench is not particularly dynamic or interesting, but the tension increases with each subsequent step. In the trenches closer to the front are wounded. People become nervous and impulsive. The feeling of hopelessness transforms into a form of desperation bordering on resignation.

Blake and Sco don't have a simple task. Their path leads through no man's land, the front line and … German trenches. According to the command abandoned, but no one really knows what to expect there. And only here the creators allow us to experience the cruelty and nightmare of war. And the war in 1917 is almost ghostly. No one's land is like a cemetery, and this is not the only moment in the whole film, where we will be accompanied by a similar feeling. They are sometimes so realistic that when sitting at the cinema, the viewer has the impression that he himself can feel the mud on his feet or the stench of decaying corpse. The level of immersion is enhanced by the aforementioned camera, which makes us almost see everything through the eyes of the characters.

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There is no pathos here. People die without much sense, because their lives are decided by other people – senior people – who do not necessarily know what they are doing. And all this conflict is devoid of any idea – as indeed the characters themselves, both main and secondary, clearly understand. Deprived of any enthusiasm, the soldiers repeatedly mention returning home. This vision is as distant for them as it is uncertain.

In 1917, however, the screen attracts the viewer with photos (here, the phenomenal Roger Deakins belong) and the stage design. The narrative method based on smooth, long camera shots combined with narrow frames builds tension. Nothing happens in the film for a good 15-20 minutes, and I sat mesmerized, paying attention to every detail. But this tension does not escalate indefinitely – eventually there is an explosion, a shot, a turnaround. It is usually also accompanied by a cut in a long shot, which instantly wakes the viewer from this hypnosis. In this respect, 1917 is a masterpiece.

But also a lot of good has to be said about the play of lights, which is particularly noticeable in night scenes. Running through the flares of Schofield, which are illuminated every now and then, is a spectacular sight. For a moment, it seems that he has escaped from the barrels of enemy soldiers, when more suddenly appear from nowhere. A dramatic escape takes the hero to the brink of despair. Which in a moment soothes the angel's voice somewhere in the distance. 1917 knows how to play the emotions of the viewer and he does it very effectively. Tension and anxiety are intertwined with moments of hope and emotion. And all this is quite mundane here. In 1917, we will not experience pathetic moments giving greater significance to the suffering and struggle for survival of two young privates. The world is cruel. The enemy is the enemy and it doesn't change even if an idealist decides to save his life.

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It is impossible to resist the impression that the film uses very simple instruments for this game of emotions. At times, the whole thing becomes a bit too unreal. A spectacular run through the ruins is actually a feast for the senses. But the sight of Germans firing worse like Star Wars stormtroopers only causes an indulgent smile on their faces. There are several such absurdities in the film. Once someone is killed by one stab of a knife, and another by a miracle he avoids being shot. These include the absolute passivity of episodic characters. Sometimes it is hard to resist the impression that they are like robots – they carry out orders, they know nothing and can not help in anything. But maybe that was the intention of the creators. The scene where Schofield meets the French girl hiding in the ruins is also disappointing – she could be cut out completely, because she did not add anything to the whole, and she was infantile and shallow.

Attention to technical details and building a suggestive mood sometimes makes the main characters George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman just become the background for the hell of war that the film presents. However, they cannot be denied their talent, because in times when they need it they show their emotions and determination in a grasping way. And this willpower in its impressive way is one of the few elements of humanity in 1917.

This is not a production, after which we will discuss lively. The film is overwhelming, makes people a little more gloomy and forces some reflection. And it may be difficult to call it a pacifist manifesto for the sake of any pathos inside, this message of the creators can be read very easily. The packaging for this message is a film work of art, as evidenced by 4 golden globes and 10 nominations for the production of Sam Mendez. It's definitely worth finding out for yourself.

Rating: 8/10

The post Review 1917. The ghostly, overwhelming and moving nightmare of World War I appeared first on AntyWeb.

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