1917: Movie in Review
Before we embark on the recent artistic experience that I had the good fortune of witnessing, it is important to define these commonly used but ambiguous terms. The experience is defined as a state affected by direct observation or participation in a knowledge-based event whereas, art is an expression of human creative skills and imaginations. Since these both terms have a remarkable impact on humans, discussing an art event is a topic very profound to me. Historically, arts and experiences have significantly altered the way humans interacts with their surroundings. Be it the field of natural sciences, social sciences or even religion, everything man does or has created can be grouped as a product of artistic experience.
Art is imperative in the development of a society as it is in cultivating the skills of creative
thinking. Therefore, earlier this month, when I set out to buy the tickets of the recently released movie, 1917, I was expecting a similar experience that will not only shake me to the core but will also open for me new ways of thinking and approaching the world. The pre and post-experience, coupled with the interpretation of the overall experience, will be discussed in length in the following sections.
Reason and logic are two fundamental pillars of growth, but nowhere in history, it had been threatened
than during the period of World War I (WWI). The thought that human can be so vicious and gore that he
can be responsible for killing millions of humans in the span of 4 years is itself very radical. Being a
student of social sciences, such topics have also inspired me. This is because by unravelling and
uncovering reasons for such events, we can construct a safe and prosperous future. Hence, when I first
saw the trailer of the movie, 1917, I was surprised to see the boldness of the director to revisit the horrors
of the past. Yet, at the same time, I immediately got fascinated to witness and be a part of the WWI by
availing the chance to see the movie in the cinema. Therefore, I logged on to the cinema website to
register tickets for myself and friends. Here it is important to note that since childhood, the art of filmmaking has had a deep impression on myself. Cinemas and theatres signify the intellectual development
of any civilization. It is through the power of cinema that the people get to learn the truth and rectify their
everyday lives. By the use of paintings, music and cinema, new beliefs can be installed, opinions can be
changed, and self-awareness can be created for the public at large. To substantiate these claims, one must
look at the historical examples where art has been employed to bring about a revolution. And one
example that pops up in one’s mind is the French Revolution and Renaissance, which was a revolution
led by the arts. During the enlightenment period, Europeans artists resorted to paintings and sculptors to
depict the reality of the times they were living in. This not only helped in educating the denizens but also
marked the significance of the art as a medium to debunk the mass propaganda imposed by the leaders of
With all these examples set in mind, I patiently waited for the big day, which would also be the first time
that I will be seated in a cinema to take history lessons. However, this was not the only motivation for me.
When watching the trailer, I did notice something special. And that speciality was the movie casting.
Over the years, one of the artists that have inspired me had been Benedict Cumberbatch. Because of his
stellar performance as Sherlock Holmes and The Imitation Game, I had vowed to watch every movie in
cinema featuring the talented Englishman. But Benedict Cumberbatch was not the only standout factor in
the trailer I watched. By doing some quick research, I figured out that the director of 1917 has also
directed a Bond sequel, Skyfall. Having watched and admired the prior work, my expectations for 1917
had doubled now since it featured my favourite actor and now director as well. Since the movie was rated
‘R’ (due to war scenes and violence), it targeted viewers aged 17 and above. Here, I consider myself fit
into the intended audience.
My mind could not help but ponder the marketing activity the film has invested in. By no means, it
looked like a low budget film, and by looking its advertisement making rounds on social media as well as
on television, it looked as if the director and the production team wanted people to devote time out of
their busy schedule in watching what they claimed as cinematic masterpiece (see below figure). There
was also one noticeable feature of the film’s promotional materials. The visuals of the movie consistently
portrayed the warriors of 1917 in an abysmal condition. From their place of residence during the war,
which was nothing more than caves and trenches, to their war adventures and destination, which was also
nothing more than death, the photography of the film covered all the horror a global war entailed. This
also highlighted one of the unique features of the film, i.e., the realist approach it adopted. Usually, the
movies are made using an idealist or a fictional approach but to show the world as it is, really took some
knack and whether 1917 had it, was only left to time to uncover.
During the Event
Given the excitement the movie had triggered in me; I took extra caution to reach the cinema on time.
This included making my way through the hustle and bustle of London. But now, the time had finally
come. After showing my tickets and disclosing my belongings, I stepped in the chilled and dark cinema.
As expected, the show was running a full house. I grabbed on my seat, set my mobile on silent, took an
observation around the cinema, and then fixed my eyes on the 70mm screen. The movie had started.
“German are Retreating” is the first dialogue I remembered hearing. Having a special fondness towards
wars and strategic studies, I knew Germans had started to retreat in WWI in the year 1917. However, it
did not bring any fortunes for the English soldiers. The sufferings of the war were on the peak during the
year and so was powerfully depicted in the movie.
The story had been set out by now. A soldier from the lower rank of the British Army had to deliver a
message of retreat to the fellow army fighting miles away from the present war. If the message did not
deliver on time, it would cause a massacre of the British forces as luring them into an attack was a
stratagem planned by the enemies. This part of the army also included the messenger’s brother, who was
also expected to be dead upon the failure of the message delivery.
The movie met my expectations; it took me to this desperate journey of averting a gruesome massacre,
which will also be the possible defeat of Britain in WWI. It captured the emotions of a man trying to save
his brother’s life. It depicted the agony of a faithful warrior trying to save his nation, but most
importantly, the movie showed ghastly visuals of the war, with violence and death used as constants. It is
no exaggeration to say that during the event, the audience was fully captivated by the brilliant score,
scenic photography and dynamic acting. Also, it is worth remarking the quality of the movie print and the
audio system of the cinema doubled the magnitude of enchantment. I can clearly remember that during
the film, no one afforded to leave the cinema or cause any distraction to the fellow audience which once
again proved that almost everyone in the cinema was fully vested in the film.
By the time the movie had ended, it had left me shaken to the core. This was not because the movie had
depicted war images to make the audience emotional and considerate, but the way it was shown in the
movie was enough to leave anyone speechless. A surprising feature of the movie was it hardly used any
woman in its entire narrative. Since it was a movie based on true events, the director did not deem it
necessary to indulge in fictional characters but instead focus on the purity of the events and tried to depict
it as it happened. Mostly epic war movies shows battles happening between the two parties. Rather in the
case of 1917, the movie was focused on the messenger, who despite being helpless and hapless, did not
leave any stone unturned to achieve his end objective. For me, this was the entire message of the film.
Furthermore, one of my common habits, every time I visit a cinema, is to ask about the reviews of the
people who were either watching the movie with me or have written about it. This not only helps me in
getting a new and fresh perspective on the event witnessed but also aware me about my thought
limitation. Therefore, one of my friends that had accompanied me in the cinema told me that the movie
portrayed a nationalist narrative with the same story of the home country being the ‘good cop’ while the
neighbouring or warring country assuming the role of the “bad cop”. He further substantiated his stance
by quoting me the examples that whenever the Germans were shown in the movie, it followed with
empathy and bloodshed. On the other hand, Englishmen were always considerate and empathic, even
towards their enemies. At first, I thought that my friend was overthinking about his new theory yet upon
reflection I also began to consider that the movie can be labelled as propaganda with the main aim of
arousing particular feelings regarding particular nations.
Nonetheless, when I reached home, I decided to read one of the renowned film critiques and their take on
the masterpiece I had just witnessed. According to the Guardian (2020), the most remarkable feature of
the movie was its series of long shots that were taken without any cuts. This technique of film making is
considered as the hardest because if there were even a slightest of errors during the shot, then the team
would have to redo the entire scene. This not only distinguishes industry experts with their counterparts,
but such type of work serves as a magnum opus for that age. On the flip side, IMDB, which is the toprated movie rating company had given an 8.5/10 to the movie and explained its significance not only in
the role of documenting a historical event but also bringing into limelight the cinematic techniques that
serve as an aspiration for every future filmmaker (IMDB, 2019).
The movie depicted universal pandemonium and problems, and it ought to be seen by people from all
walks of life. These type of movies does not serve the purpose of making the viewers ‘feel good’, but
rather it outlines some serious shortcomings of the global power system. While the major objective of the
war is power and profit, it is ultimately the common man who pays the price of such uncompromising
human nature. The movie was able to show the worst and the best aspects of human beings and is
strongly recommended for the researchers, academicians, politicians, war generals and masses across