War film essay

Warm films has always been taking a considerable part in our everyday life. Since the times the cinematography appeared war topic has become one of the most popular theme, showing brave and self-sacrificing people who were eager to offer up their lives in order to save someone and the country.

First war films appeared in the 19th century and were devoted to Spanish-American War: “The first war film to be documented was a one-reel, 90-second propagandist effort – the Vitagraph Company’s fictitious Tearing Down the Spanish Flag (1898), produced in the year of the Spanish-American War. It portrayed a faked, reconstructed version of the seizure of a Spanish government installation in Havana by U.S. Army troops, the removal of the foreign flag, and its replacement by the Stars and Stripes” (Tim Dirks, 2009).  Since then was started the era of war films which lasted till to day.  In today’s world we could find a great variety of war films, made by directors of different countries and devoted to different periods of humans’ history.

It goes without saying that the United States’ cinema industry produced a number of different war films, which were devoted to different periods of American and World history.

The definition of, what is really war film is, are quite indistinct, that cause some contradictions within the definition of war films and what movies could be denoted as war films. A good example will be screen version of well known novel by Margaret Mitchel “Gone with the Wind”. Some critics do not find it possible to consider  the story devoted to the civil war times to be a war film. But other critics consider that there are enough war scenes to consider this film to belong to this particular category. There is a number of films belonging to the civil war period as it was one of the most significant periods in the American history.

Another significant period is devoted to the First World War. They were created in rather propagandist way and it was necessary for that period to encourage Americans during the difficult war years. European cinematography was completely ruined and Hollywood films encouraged Europeans too: “The semi-documentary My Four Years in Germany (1918), the first real hit for Warner Bros’ Studios, was presented as fact – it presumed to show the first-hand experiences of James Gerard, the American ambassador to Germany from 1913-1917, including his witnessing of innumerable and cruel German “atrocities” that were greatly exaggerated in re-enactments, although they appeared true when mixed with actual footage” (Tim Dirks, 2009). It is essential that this key period was very significant for the whole world that is why a number of films, in American and European cinematography was devoted to this scrutinized period. Real boom was observed in the mid-20-s of the XX century, when there was observed real boom within this theme: “King Vidor’s The Big Parade (1925) was a new kind of war film, and the first to realistically portray the horrors of battle and the struggle for survival by three soldier-comrades (a bartender, a riveter, and a millionaire’s son) in the trenches. The film was a spectacular success, and made more money than any other MGM film production up to its time” (Tim Dirks, 2009).

The Second World War produced another potion of military propaganda. Nazi was the ones who used short movies for propaganda providing political information in such a way.  At this period films were often documentary or half-documentary, British and Germans were the ones who invented this in cinematography combining fiction and documentary facts. Among them are well known The Lion Has Wings, Target for Tonight, and Sieg im Westen. The United Sates entered the war in 1941 and Hollywood began to produce films devoted to the war. In 1940 a well known parody, provided by Charly Chapplin was released: “Charlie Chaplin lampooned Adolf Hitler (in the role of Adenoid Hynkel) and The Third Reich in The Great Dictator (1940), the director/actor’s first all-talking picture – it was Chaplin’s last film with the Little Tramp character. Hitler banned German audiences from viewing the picture due to its offensive characterization and even some American audiences believed that Chaplin had become self-indulgent” (Tim Dirks, 2009). In other war films the notes of propaganda are also could be seen from the both sides and it is essential that wars produced a serious influence on the cinematography.

The Second World War still quite popular theme for creating movies. It is essential that people want to learn more about the facts happed during the war times. The two most popular  films are German Das Boot (1981) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), telling the realistic stories about the Second World War. “Saving Private Ryan” became a real hit telling the real story, showing all the horrors and cruelty of there Second World War, where always was a place for feet. The Second World War produced a serious impact on the films of the 50-s too. French, Soviet and British and certainly American cinematography produced a number of movies devoted to the theme.

If we speak about the Vietnam War and other local conflicts it would be necessary to say that the war was unpopular but still left in the memories of the viewers thanks to the famous blockbuster Rambo. But actually the majority of Hollywood studios refused to make films about this war. They were left only as documentaries made by the war journalists.

During the Post-Vietnam period the viewers and directors were attracted by fiction war films, that showed patriotic wars and revolutions on imagined planets and galaxies (like Star Wars) or far away future.

During the last 20 years cinema industry had a great leap ahead developing fantastic visual effects and it did not avoid the war films as well. Probably the most popular films about war are still closely connected with Historical Events, which are significant for particular country.

The development of Chinese and Japanese  cinematography let us learn more interesting facts about Chinese War films and Chinese history ( such as the Red Cliff, Hero, etc) and how was the Second World War going on Far East, illustrating the tragedy of Pearl Harbor and telling the story about life in Japan during the Second World War (Memoirs of Geisha).

It goes without saying that in the present day world War films take really considerable place in the hearts of the viewers. Films, illustrating War times are quite popular as they give us an ability how cruel is war, understanding that it is not an empty word, but real tragedy for the any nation. War films teach us to love and protect our motherland, be brave, but not reckless, discipline and team co-operating. Many positive lessons could be learned by contemporary people about the war films of the past and present, even they are representing wars on the planets that have never existed.

But still we should not forget about the after affects, that could influence, adults and especially children. They may cause aggressive reaction and should  seriously damage psychic statement. Parents should be well aware if it is possible to show war films to their children as it may have really damaging influence on them. According to the contemporary statistics contemporary children do not feel comfortable watching war films and they could be many psychological problems in future.

In the end I would like to make a stress that war films have much more positive effect on the society, yes, they should be divided according to the target age, but still the majority of them introduce us high moral qualities, teach us to define good and evil and make us understand the difference between truth and lies. We also become aware about historical events that took place many years and may be even thousand years ago (such film as Troy). War films are really necessary for us to commemorate great deeds of our ancestors.

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