I watched Dunkirk last night. My dad walked out half way through because the direction of the film upset him, he found it was overtly stylised for a serious and real topic. I almost walked out towards the end because it was too much. Obviously the film was going to be bleak. Obviously there were going to be lots of deaths and tragedies that actually happened. It's just that, having seen it, did I really need to go to understand the hideous things that humans do to each other?
Okay so the film was powerful. The sound was done so brilliantly that, not having ever felt a bomb go off, I could imagine the extreme terror that noise brings about. I could imagine the utter hopelessness of standing on a beach open as a target to Nazi aircraft. I could see the desperation. I could picture my male friends in the same position. Boys my age just wanting to survive, just wanting to go home, just not wanting to die.
But would I have known and understood all of this without seeing the film? Was it necessary to put myself through 2 hours of crying and stress in order to feel closer to the men who lived through?
Film is a medium that is like no other. You cannot feel the sound, or hear the cries, or see the bleakness of it all from reading a book, unfortunately. A history book could give me the death toll, could describe the conditions. A work of fiction could potentially describe the terror, the bitterness, the humanity. But I'm not sure either of those things could fully immerse me in something which feels a fraction of what it was actually like.
And so perhaps feeling like that, crying for actors on a screen representing real men, is a simple reminder. A reminder of history, of our awful, tragic history. Of what can happen to humans, of what we can do to ourselves.
I'm not really going to comment on the style of the film, the quality of it because obviously it did its job. It made me feel. There were faults and choices made that I don't agree with. But if I'm being honest I think that had I not seen the film, or any film like it, I wouldn't really understand just a little bit of the horror of war. The horror of wars that have happened, and wars that are yet to come (because, sadly, history can and will repeat itself). I think there is a job for films like Dunkirk to do, and I think it's an important job. Just make sure that you're ready for how the film is going to make you feel.