Prologue: I have a friend who sorts flicks into two categories: a movie and a film. Motion pictures written, produced and directed by M. Night Shymalkaasdlakjdfjkl fall into the movies category, while the obscure, poignant, cathartic ones are called films. Whenever we see a flick in a cinema house, we’d know we liked it when we collectively comment that “It’s such a film.” We haven’t reached the point yet where we call the directors ‘auteurs’.
Now if you’re an opportunistic, Oscar-chasing filmmaker, you’ll know that a war or a conflict is a mother lode of material for a film. War films for me are the best. I have a thing for films whose sole purpose is to leave their audience depressed, and a war flick fits right into that category. I like being artistically harassed and emotionally violated by what I see in the silver screen; it makes me feel alive.
Anyway, I’ve come up with a list of the best war films I’ve seen so far. You’ve probably seen most if not all of them, but in case you haven’t, please do and give your feelings a try.
6. Schindler’s List (1993)
Stephen Spielberg’s story of the Holocaust currently ranks 8th in the list of 100 Best American Films of All Time, and for a good reason. It tells the tale of how a man managed to save about a thousand Jews from being massacred by the evil Hitler, proving that there is hope for humanity despite the existence of genocidal maniacs who occasionally cause a blip in our otherwise happy world. The movie is so raw in its depiction that some movie-censoring woman named Henrietta Mendez cut the sex scenes before showing it in Philippine theaters. As a result, Spielberg pulled out the movie from our cinemas, a symbolic birdflipping to our stupid censorship board. Defending her decision, Mendez said “the sex act is sacred and beautiful and should be done in the privacy of the bedroom.” At this point we do the infinite facepalms.
5. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008)
Most war films focus on the lives of the soldiers, government officials, and lovers whose relationships were rudely interrupted by gunfire and atom bombs. This film, however, tells the story of the war from the perspective of two eight-year-old boys: one is a son of a Nazi commandant while the other is a Jew. The two become friends despite the war and the story ends in a disturbing sequence that will make you hate God.
4. The Reader (2008)
Known as the film which gave Kate Winslet her well-deserved Oscar, The Reader is about the affair of German teenage boy (Michael) with an older woman (Hanna) who becomes a guard of a Nazi concentration camp. After being apart, Michael finds out Hanna was implicated in one of the Holocaust crimes, and her vindication lies in her decision to reveal a deeply personal secret. If you are an extremely shallow person devoid of cultural tastes, you will like the movie because it is basically a Holocaust movie-slash-soft-porn. But it’s not a movie; it’s a film.
3. The Kite Runner (2007)
If you don’t cry after seeing this film, you should rethink your worth as a human being and be ashamed of yourself. The Kite Runner is a wonderful story about two Afghan boys whose friendship was tested by the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The film shows depictions of formerly okay Afghanistan, and I must say it got me really interested and sad at the same time about the beautiful country. The film is a tale of betrayal and redemption, and how every one is given a chance to be good again.
2. Atonement (2007)
I’ve seen this movie numerous times and I always say that I’ve never seen an ending as powerful as the one in this story. The film, set in Britain, tells the love story between Robbie and Cecilia from the perspective of Cecilia’s sister, the smart and overthinking Briony. When I first saw the film (I read the book after), I thought it was just another fancy war movie with the same cliches. At one point I felt like it was dragging, until the real story unfurled and slapped me hard in the end. From then on, whenever I had the opportunity, I’d watch the film again, because I love pain.
1. Casablanca (1942)
There are too many reasons why this movie is considered one of the best, if not the best film of all time. The main reason why I loved it, though, was as early as 1942, people in the movie industry already knew how wise it is not to pander to the audience’s stupid desires all the time. In short, the movie does not give you what you want, but you’ll love it anyway. The story revolves around American Rick Blaine, who runs a pub in Casablanca during the war. His former love, Ilsa, walks into the establishment to Rick’s surprise, and the two try to pick up where their relationship left off. Major takeaways include the wonderful song ‘As Time Goes By’, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s chemistry, and the curious transatlantic accent of actors way back when. The film also gave birth to the line ‘Round up the usual suspects’, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid’, and other quotes still being used as pop culture references in the present. The weird feeling of knowing all the actors in the movie are already dead but they still manage to move you is also kind of amazing.