…and the quest to see everything

Vimy Week Movie: Passchendaele

This is the second installment of Vimy Week and the first movie of the series that I saw on the big screen that is not a new release and therefore fits into John’s Big Screen Challenge. I promised to watch a safe number of 26 non-new release movies on the big screen but since I’m almost halfway I know I can totes do more than that. Come join us!

As a 1.5 generation Canadian the country’s curriculum exposed me of its generation rift. Its youth, though increasingly becoming centre-right, still look like multicultural pot-smoking passive hippies to our old teachers so they’re trying to educate us that when this country was still full of just integrated Europeans, we were the world’s fourth biggest military. We educated of the former glory that is the Great War and the Franco-Germanic names where our troops have fallen and risen again, Ypres, the Somme. The movie is cyclical in nature, beginning and ending with Michael Dunne (Paul Gross, who also wrote and directed) in European battlefields, the first time in Vimy and the second in the titular Passchendaele.

That title is a misnomer since its first half takes place in Michael’s home town of Calgary, where he finds himself being treated by a nurse named Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas), these characters expressing their love through drug withdrawals and battlefield sex, scenes of which are automatically ridiculously awesome. Not by intention she poses problems for him because her German father fought for the other side. The movie magnifies race and ethnicity, as Sarah gets fired from her job. Her brother David (Joe Dinicol), ridden with Daddy issues and too effete for a barely legal lower middle class boy, is guilt-tripped into signing up for the war by a English-descended Canadian to be his bride. Neighbours vandalise the Mann home with red paint spelling ‘HUN’ – the movie intermittently shows drawn Asiatic caricatures of Huns, curiously enough. This anti-Germanic plot line’s similarities to the one in East of Eden which would be distracting if it didn’t have roots in reality. The front lines eradicate those issues – the Englishman, First Nations and Québécois have their archetypal one-liners before they get painted in with the rest of the Canadians, all of them muddy due to days on the trenches. And the enemy, which they kill in glorious hand-to-hand combat, look just as dirty as they do! But despite of how many bodies get flung in the air or close-ups of decent looking men one second before dying by gunshot, this still feels a bit shiny and CGI’d for a war movie. Image via Guardian.

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