WE WENT to WAR
Pavel Branko - 'the doyen of Slovak film criticism', a truly amazing
man with an incredible life story: (please read!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavel_Branko...
WE WENT to WAR
Pavel Branko - 'the doyen of Slovak film criticism',
a truly amazing man with an incredible life story: (please read!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavel_Branko
Pavel has written a wonderful review of WE WENT TO WAR
after attending one of our screenings at the recent Bratislava International
We are humbled to receive this incredible man's words.
Thank you Pavel - what an honour!
‘A documentary that does not
so much follow its characters
longitudinally through time,
as much as it straddles time itself. After 40 years, director Michael Grigsby,
now with co author Rebekah Tolley, returns to the same three veterans,
who 40 years ago were young men made old by war and who now, in their sixties,
struggle with feelings of embitterment and resignation...
...One of them, seen fishing
by a river, leaves the strongest impression; apart from modern headgear,
he has the look of a character straight out of Ride the High Country. We
are on a wide Texas plain, with a freely held camera, lingering long enough
to allow the eye to immerse itself into the unchanging nature of a country,
its unchangingly conservative inhabitants and an irrevocable hierarchy
of values. Indeed, these men are in no hurry (neither inwardly), in their
stoic attitude toward the world (nor outwardly), facing the hectic gallop
of rip-roaring megalopolis-America. The camera expresses this with long
lingering shots of empty roads wending through a changeless Western landscape
as if into the unknown.
The film expresses both the
flow of time, and of halted time, with the use of occasional split-screen
shots. In one scene we see half a frame occupied by a young man behind
a steering wheel, in the other half , the same man forty years later. Four
decades perfectly compressed into one frame, while beyond both car windows,
the same landscape passes by, distinguished only by the separate guises
of the same face, from youth to old age. Regarding this compression of
time into a single split-screen frame – never have I seen this so strikingly
portrayed in a film before. At other times, two shots of the same location
seen from a moving car, express stagnation, since in these latter decades
neither the image nor the spirit of the town has changed; with locations
more reminiscent of a Wild West movie, and exteriors, which in all but
a few details, appear little altered. The portraits of the three men, along
with the testaments of a wife and daughter, express the filmmakers’ respect
for their subjects. They also reflect the resignation, frustration and
anger of these central protagonists, their feelings of an historical injustice;
of the disregard for victims sacrificed to a war which history would judge
senseless, but which only the daughter evaluates as a war of aggression.
Here, voice is given to a real backwoods America, reluctant to move and
hard to move; an America which votes en masse for the Republicans, perhaps
in a vain illusion they will less interfere in, and make less attempt to
change their old-world view of life.’
- Pavel Branko
WE WENT TO WAR by Michael Grigsby and Rebekah
Posted: 10/04/2013 16:16
Our journey with WE WENT TO WAR started on a rainy
afternoon in London in December 2007. In between developing project ideas
with Michael, I was slowly making my way through his extraordinary five
decade back catalogue as one Britain's great documentary filmmakers. Today
it was 'I Was a Soldier' (1970), possibly the very first sustained treatment
about soldiers coming home from the frontlines of Vietnam.
This was the story of three young Texan men,
exposed to the madness of war and trying to come to terms, to fit back
in, to mend minds bent out of shape. 'I Was a Soldier's' staggeringly quiet
but searingly powerful testaments were brutal by the very nature of their
calmness. Voices struggling to form words between the long pauses, hollow
silences filled only with the sounds of passing cars, sheep, dogs, everyday
life. Landscapes that were 'other' than the ones in their heads.
What had happened to them in these intervening
four decades? What would time have brought to the greater part of their
lives lived beneath such trauma? Michael and I talked and we agreed with
a simple, mutual "Yes". Four years later we had walked the long road to
making WE WENT TO WAR with Dennis, David and Lamar's family.
Michael knew instinctively what to do with cinematic
language. Film-making was completely natural to him and had been in his
blood from the age of 14, when he made his first film as a schoolboy. He
always said that as filmmakers it was up to us to take risks, " to understand
the beauty of sound, the importance of stunning visuals and to understand
how people have so much to give...are so sensitive, so eloquent. And we
have to have the courage to respect what they have to say, what they have
experienced and let them communicate that to us...because it's a magical,
beautiful experience." And so it was that making We Went to War was the
culmination of our shared vision..."we have a joint way of seeing the world!"
he used to say to me.
Completing the journey of WE WENT TO WAR, witnessing
it for the first time with an audience was extraordinary. That we had even
arrived there after the long haul of trying to make the film; trying to
raise the finance, or just the general madness of filmmaking. To finally
be able to get to strip away all the layers and get at the heart of the
story of these three families was worth everything we'd been through.
Michael always said that every film he had ever
made had allowed him to understand and know himself that little bit more.
The hope was always to keep on growing, because he said, "If you're not
growing you're dead!"... Our ultimate hope for We Went to War, was that
it would allow us all to understand a little more those men, women and
families, caught up in wars across lands, religion and time who forfeit
much in the name of freedom.
We Went to War is out now. Check www.wewenttowarthemovie.com
for further info.
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