“Where is Colonel Mckenzie?”. It is one of the phrases that remains anchored in the viewer’s ear in the scene that will probably be the most remembered of 1917 for the tension, the epic and the technique that is used in it.Sam Mendes, its director, has filmed one of the most powerful films of the year 2019 and of the history of war cinemaOne that on its own merits enters that Olympus of the genre in which works such as Paths of Glory, Saving Private Ryan or The Metallic Jacket are found. One that, in other words, also strives to show the horrors of war, chance in these conflicts as a determining element between life and death. An outstanding production that highlights the technical to tell, sometimes even in a subtle and poetic way, a story that captivates and excites.
And yes it is shot in its entirety in a sequence shot (with certain cuts and tricks deliberately visible but which pass as imperceptible) with a lot of sense for its narrative and with little artifice, unlike what has happened with other productions that boasted the same technique. The set results in a film called to sweep the Oscars 2020.
1917 nominations at the 2020 Oscars
Technique, the great ally of 1917
The 1917 premise is simple: Two young British soldiers have to deliver a message against the clock to prevent the death of thousands of soldiers. This is where Mendes’ use of the aforementioned begins to make sense. sequence shot. This allows the viewer to accompany its protagonists in this race, walk through the trenches so characteristic of the First World War (with certain reminiscences of the mythical Paths of Glory), stop at the details (those faces of the fearful soldiers and the downcast) and in the most intimate moments, observe the environment around you with dangers that surround them … The use of this type of shot is not a trivial cinematographic decision, but rather is made with sense to its narrative. And Mendes plays with slight cuts or tricks that he does not bother to show and that have a common pattern: when they occur there is usually an imminent danger, a moment near death.
But beyond this shooting technique, 1917 stands out for other technical and production elements such as a care of the sound and scenery that turn the battlefield in a believable setting that you can feel. Bullets and explosions are scary, they really hit. You can almost touch the dirt, mud, blood and rot that surrounds that warlike No Man’s Land, a inhospitable place where there is only death and it gives it a purely anti-war character that scares, that does not idealize or exalt war or patriotism, that does not blur or create sides. Roger Deakins Photography puts the icing on the cake to create unparalleled natural light, contrasts between life and death, scenes of darkness where flares, fire or a lamp illuminate the scenery, details and faces of each of the characters present with incredible precision.
Coldness and excitement
The plot of 1917 has come to be dismissed as simple because it is a story that is based on the fact that its protagonists go from A to B. But it is this fact, together with its technical perfection at the service of the narrative, which allows in this trip the viewer is trapped and can be a witness of the rawness and coldness of the conflict, of the emotional moments, of the mundane conversations … By accompanying the characters all the time on this journey, this cold journey fills with color and emotion, their motivations can be understood and they can attend its ups and downs.
George MacKay, the leading actor together Dean-Charles Chapman, is the one who surprises the most and who makes it possible for Sam Mendes’ proposal to work. The young performer performs one of the most convincing performances of the year with him suffering, laughing, sweating, crying, feeling adrenaline and feeling terror. With him, the viewer is one more running between the trenches with the heart in a fist asking “where is Colonel Mckenzie?”.
For 1917 at the Oscars 2020
Against 1917 at the Oscars 2020
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for and against at the Oscars 2020