I didn’t want to see “1917” because I have two sons, and for a mother, realistic war movies are really horror movies. I see all kinds of movies but not horror movies. But with everyone talking about the amazing cinematography, the ‘Best Picture’ nomination, and some of my girlfriends (also moms) seeing it, I decided, bracing myself, that I would go.
Also, Duane and I toured the WWI battlefield in Ypres, Belgium, on a cold rainy June day a few years ago. We marched around mounds that were once trenches filled with mud soaked soldiers, and saw the fields where some of the millions of horses died. The opening scenes of 1917 exactly reproduced that landscape of hell. I watched with eyes squinting to not feel the full impact of the brutality of that war.
Two soldiers are on a mission to reach a major with a life saving message, was what I understood the film was about, without anyone giving away the ending. I debated whether it would be a story of heroes or a story of the hopelessness of war; the first always inspires me, the second I can do without.
It won the Oscar for best cinematography because the visuals, like a bombed out town lit in the dark by fires and flares, were amazing. It was up for best picture because in the details of the story man is portrayed in his humanity: good and evil. It was a story of two sons; each had pictures of their mother safely tucked inside their uniforms. Was one picture hidden in his small Bible? One of the soldiers is desperate to find and see his brother. In meeting a convoy of soldiers, an officer warns, “Be sure to give your message in front of others. War makes men too eager to fight.”
I often wonder where a film gets its story. The more fascinating ones are usually based in reality. Most inspiring, In the end credit, Sam Mendes honors his grandfather, Alfred Mendes with his full military title, as the basis for the idea of “1917.” We need to share our family stories.
My grandfather, Andrew Telford, served in the Canadian Army in France in WWI. He had become a Christian the previous year and spent time preaching the Good News, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have eternal life,” to men who were going off to die. They respected him; enough that they asked him to keep their gambling money safe in his Bible.