Does it take unusual talent, a sense of vision unparalleled in the annals of filmmaking, a massive budget that would bankrupt Hollywood because, you know, truth HURTS?
Let’s take a quick run-through and see what we can dig up.
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In fact, one could actually teach an entire course on the Second World War just by using film—it’s been done many time actually—without sacrificing the truth. Perhaps, the following list can serve as a core curriculum:
Mr. Klein (1976), by Joseph Losey, starring Alain Delon. One of the few French films that actually addresses the ethical and moral problematic of being an art dealer in wartime Paris and dealing with Jewish identity or not. Riveting? Yes. Well written? Yes. Acting? Splendid, especially from Alain Delon, who delivered one of his best career performances. Stark? Yes. All in all, it made the point powerfully and left us with some acrid back taste in our mouths.
The Black Book (2006), by Paul Verhoeven, starring Carice van Houten. A troubling
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Forbidden Games (1952), by René Clément, starring Brigitte Fossey. Two children orphaned by an aerial strafing attack on a column of refugees and how the sudden loss of mother and father on a backdrop of war changes their lives forever.
The Longest Day, by Andrew Marton and Ken Annakin, starring John Wayne and Richard Burton, one of the best films about the Second World War. You walk out of that film understanding why Germany was on its last legs as a result of the invasion of France on June 6, 1944, better known as D-Day.
Historically accurate? Yes. Why? The filmmakers actually recruited as consultants veterans of D-Day who fought on all sides, including former German senior officers. They did not shy away from grandiosity but this epic film stands out a magisterial blend of humor, sarcasm, downright cruelty and surrealism that only war can deliver to you, cynicism, and strategic errors that cost the lives of countless men—the Saint-Lo incident, for one. One can bet anything that the total budget for the Longest Day did not exceed in real dollars the costs incurred to make the “Monuments Men”. It remains a classic, unlike this upcoming tragicomedy predicated on a historical falsehood, namely that the Nazis were about to blow up the world’s “cultural treasures.”
Say no more.
The jury is unfairly in.
Next time someone makes a movie about the Second World War, realize that it takes talent, good writing, and creativity to tell a tale anchored in TRUTH. And it also takes a tremendous amount of humility and an ego kept in check.
Let the public decide. As we all know, it can be truly fickle and still root for falsehood as long as eye candy is available on a large screen with surround sound and glitzy special effects.