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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Remains of the day

In times of Brexit, ‘1917’, a film that recalls a war fought by young men for a free Europe, sweeps BAFTA

By: Editorial | Updated: February 4, 2020 5:52:02 pm
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Two days after Brexit, a film about two footsoldiers who ran the breadth of the trenches between Britain and Germany during World War I, to prevent a bloodbath, swept BAFTA.

The seven BAFTAs to Sam Mendes’s 1917 are, of course, an acknowledgment of the power and breathtaking finesse with which the British writer-director and his cinematographer Richard Deakins portray the futility and tragedy of war, and its demands of honour and sacrifice from essentially very young men. However, it is hard not to see in the honour a lament for a Europe that, a hundred years later, again has a line running through it.

Mendes conceded as much a year after England voted for Brexit, in 2017. Talking about the family stories that inspired 1917, he said, “I’m afraid that the winds that were blowing before the First World War are blowing again. There was this generation of men fighting then for a free and unified Europe, which we would do well to remember.”

1917 is a good reminder — of that generation, that Europe, and that spirit. In the present though, the awards left BAFTA stinging over accusations of lack of diversity, both in race and gender. It took an absent Brad Pitt to address the elephants present in the room.

The Best Supporting Actor winner, who has been having quite a run with Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, Pitt remarked both on Britain’s newly “single” and one-prince-minus status. In the audience, guests of honour Prince William and wife Kate Middleton, chuckled.

Still, some divides can be bridged, as noted by Bong Joon Ho who won two BAFTAs for his Korean film Parasite, incidentally about class differences. “I spent a lot of time writing in cafes. I never imagined I would be standing here at the Royal Albert Hall,” Ho said in his acceptance speech. Royal Albert Hall, incidentally, was one of the few London buildings to survive the German Blitz.

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