Dissecting 1917 Movie: How Unique Can Cinema Be?

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1917 provides a kind of atmosphere to war movies which is unique and sets unprecedented standards in terms of technicality and imagery. Roger Deakins has elevated the cinematography game to another level but the editing of this movie also needs a special appreciation of its own. It shifts from climates and environments and jumps from set pieces to set pieces, exposing the viewer to a new, deeper climate. The lighting, the action and the chases emanate a sensational kind of thrill which is rarely consistent in throughout a war movie.

In a still from 1917 Movie

1917 and the Personal Stake Involved

The first frame and the last frame of 1917 are the same, yet the character progression from the beginning to the end is phenomenally powerful and impacting. The movie begins with the two soldiers sitting across field, under the shade of a tree, contemplating home and their life after the war. Without breaking the scene, the character move from vast fields to trenches and then back to war ridden grounds. The set design is eerie and filled with living as well as dead bodies coexisting. A lot of what goes behind creating a one shot sequence, let alone a movie, is the practical effects which are involved and executed in a well-coordinated manner.

Colin Firth plays the Army general and hurriedly gives the men their mission. Bare in mind, this mission won’t be carried on by anyone other than the two men sharing the screen. The responsibility of conveying a message which could save around 2000 army men, relies on the conscience of these men. Its not just a matter of doing it for the nation, but it also has a personal drive behind it for the army which is about to get ambushed, houses the brother of one of the men that we see on screen. This creates tension and panic as the mission isn’t really forced upon them, but the brother naturally decides to take it for the personal stake involved in it. The story highlights how the emotional decision-making outweighs the logical aspect of taking a mission which is sure shot suicide. Human motivations are based around a deeply personal mission and the other soldier who doesn’t necessarily needs to do this, goes along anyway, just to be there for his friend. There was a lot of debate around 1917 not having the kind of character attachment which is normally seen in well done war films. And for most part I did agree with that, but after going back and re-watching 1917, I came to realize that there’s a lot of humanity and devotion which shrouded under subtlety.  

In a still from 1917 Movie

1917 Movie: The war-torn land of bodies, rats and filth

Coming to the part which really started to hook me into the setting of 1917, when they begin their journey and move towards the war torn barren land. The camera movements are slow and there’s so many different elements such a vast production scale that figuring out the disguised cuts turned into a massive task. They move through barbed wires and ditches which accompany rats and filth and all of it, never once, breaks the immersion of this cinematic masterpiece. I was blown away by the fantastic fluidity of CGI and Practical effects and how it transcended to the more insignificant things such as rats, which probably were CGI, right? Their passage into abandoned barracks and the intense atmosphere sent sheer chills down my spine. The barracks, from the beginning, posed a silent threat and I couldn’t trust a single thing which was moving. That was precisely why I became uneasy when I saw that monstrosity of a mouse, squeaking its way through bodies. I specifically remember the reaction of the entire theatre going “OH” and then dead silence struck, with everyone trying to figure out whether the two survived or not. 

In a still from 1917 Movie

1917 Movie: The Pilot who shouldn’t have been trusted

1917 has a way of introducing significant climate and mood changes. The locations switch from body ridden lands to lusciously green grasslands which are dominant be peace, silence and nature. Its like the screenplay is trying to convey a moment of silence after the all out chaos and gives us all a breather before it jumps to the next big scene or twist. In this scene it was the twist, as they move to an abandoned house and discover a German plane raining down at them. The plane swirls in the air and emerges from the land towards them in full force. Its fans are flaming and the crash hits the barn and the two lie on ground on the verge of getting crushed to pieces. I thoroughly admired how this film portrays trust in war.

During the barrack sequence, if only one of them would have killed the rat, it wouldn’t have caused the trip wire to blow. Same goes with the sequences, if only one of them were to kill the German and end his suffering, Blake wouldn’t have died. There’s something so real about watching something in one take, that the death sequence, when played in real time, brings out a chilly sadness. The camera is constantly glued on his broken face and he goes through shock, regret and acceptance in order and finally succumbs to his death. There was a range of subtlety displayed by Dean-Charles Chapman, due to which the pain felt by him felt brutally real and honest. 

In a still from 1917 Movie

1917 Movie: Blue of the Day blends with an orange night

Moving up a notch, the next sequence which still remains sharp in my memory is the burning city. The imagery and the lighting in this scene is beyond freaking compare. This scene alone made watching the movie in IMAX so worth it. The atmospheric music which flowed through the sequence, and the bright yellow fire which burned entire buildings in darkness, felt like it could be turned into a painting just because of the depth of nuances it portrayed.

Schofield’s escape from the Germans in this town, was a series of gunfights and close-combat actions. Their spontaneity lied in the fact that there wasn’t any awareness on the side of Germans, so they reacted in the only way they knew how to, panic. The choking, the distant shooting and the chase through the flare lit pathways, not only brought out the technical finesse, but also hinted at the uniqueness of screenplay and Sam Mendes in conjuring such a brilliant sequence up. 

In a still from 1917 Movie

1917 Movie: Run towards glory

Lastly, the final run of 1917. This scene describes 1917 in its full glory. Schofield was out of time and out of hope and he sure as hell wasn’t giving up now. He reaches the trenches but before he can warn anyone, the orders are screamed and the entire front battalion charges through the field, looking for blood and death. In the midst of this, when everyone is running forward to the war, Schofield runs sideways along the trenches while bullets rain on them and soldiers fall by each second.

The Movie Culture Synopsis

This entire movie is even more phenomenal once you see how it was actually conceived. The climax brought and summarized the entire focus and will of Schofield and caused him to do this breath-taking feat. 1917 ends with Schofield informing Blake’s brother about his death and he goes ahead and sits under a tree, facing the nature. Only this time he is all alone.

Author

  • Hardik is a Mumbai based writer who is a cinephile. Nothing interests him more than movies and visual entertainment. His other hobbies include reading and singing (At least, he likes to think that he sings well). You can connect with him on his Instagram.