At the Theater
Academy-Award winning film “1917”
February 20, 2020
As a writer, I’m well aware that the most compelling stories–and often the ones most meaningful to witness–are those that are born from personal experience. I want you to know this because the Academy-Award winning film “1917” was written by Director Sam Mendes, based on stories his grandfather told him about World War I.
This means that the story has deeply personal meaning for Mendes, as the experience of putting together this cinematic story is rooted in that relationship. Mendes is connected to a generation that proceeds him, but which also carries weight into the present day. War always does.
In the film, we follow two young soldiers who are sent on an urgent mission: they must run to the front in order to alert the forces there that a plan they have to take offensive action against the enemy is in fact a trap. If the message isn’t delivered, a tragedy will occur, costing the lives of some 1,600 men. Among them is the brother of one of the messengers.
I also want you to know, if you’re not already aware of it, that this is a “one-shot” film. This doesn’t mean it was shot in one take, which, in this case, would be impossible. But it is edited in a way as to be one, continuous stream of action that has you following these two young men every step of the way, minute by minute, along the journey to fulfill the order. Some of the spliced takes are as long as nine minutes, which is a long take for keeping the cameras rolling. Mendes doesn’t want us to see anything before these two soldiers see it; he wants us on the journey as well.
“1917” comes on the heels of the wonderful 2018 film by Peter Jackson, “They Shall Not Grow Old”–a special sort of documentary also focusing on the World War I generation. There will always be stories–in book form or in cinema–about the wars of the past. Many men only tell these stories in the sunsets of their lives. But they are part of our humanity, for better or worse. Mendes’ film has earned three Oscars: one for Best Cinematography (it’s visually stunning); one for Best Visual Effects (again, stunning); and one for Best Sound Mixing (er, stunning). You’re going to see and feel this one, all the way up to the finish line.
“1917,” rated R for war violence and disturbing images, plays at the Liberty February 21-25. For more information visit http://www.libertytheater.org.