The Great Illusion of War: A Cinematic Retrospective

Paper by Patrick Gordon-Davis.

1. Introduction and Historical Background
November 11, 2018, marked the one hundredth year anniversary of the armistice which brought an end to the First World War. The “Great War,” as it used to be called, claimed the lives of at least nine million soldiers and five million civilians from some 28 countries, and left untold millions more injured or permanently disabled (Mintz para. 2). But it is important that this war is remembered not only in terms of its unspeakable tragedy, but also for its monumentally far-reaching sociopolitical implications. As one historian put it:

Just about everything that happened in the remainder of the twentieth century was in one way or another a result of World War I, including the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, World War II, the Holocaust, and the development of the atomic bomb. (Mintz para. 1)

And so, for one century and counting, filmmakers have tried to make sense of this momentous juncture in world history. Three of these films, La Grande Illusion (Renoir, 1937), Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 1957), and The Guardians (Beauvois, 2017), all of which focus on French soldiers and civilians during

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“Window [opened] onto reality”: Illustrations of Brutality and Abuse in War

Paper by Claire Thompson.

Throughout the 20th century, World War I and the Vietnam War yielded a number of films that protested the brutality and abuse issued by the leaders of these conflicts. In particular, Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 1957) and All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone, 1930) use equally realistic combat scenes to display the brutality of World War I, and the copious amounts of men who unjustly died in the conflict. Born on the Fourth of July (Stone, 1989) traces protagonist Ron Kovic’s (Tom Cruise) odyssey from a naive patriot to an enlightened protester against several components of the Vietnam War, including the lack of domestic support for the war’s political justification. Each film depicts either the abuse against the soldiers, either through the power of the military leaders (as in Paths of Glory) or through the influence they have over the soldiers (as in Born on the Fourth of July and All Quiet on the Western Front). Through varying narratives, editing and mise-en-scene, all three films highlight the brutality of war through the sacrifices their protagonists make and the abuses of power than enable such

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