Dunkirk - Separating Truth from Fiction by Peter Hammond

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Hektor
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Dunkirk - Separating Truth from Fiction by Peter Hammond

Postby Hektor » 3 weeks 2 days ago (Thu Aug 31, 2017 4:52 pm)

https://vimeo.com/231503920
(How can I link in videos from vimeo correctly)

Peter Hammond took some effort to meticulously analyse the war drama "Dunkirk" and debunks the impressions made in this film:
DUNKIRK – SEPARATING FACT from FICTION

Christopher Nolan’s war drama Dunkirk, focuses on Operation Dynamo – The Evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from France, 26 May to 4 June 1940. With all the promotions of the film as “incredibly accurate” and “true to the history,” I was cautiously hopeful and looked forward to seeing the film.

Under Fire and Under Water

The cinematography is superb and audiences are presented with dramatic depictions of what it is like to be under fire and the terror of being trapped in darkness at night, inside the hold of a sinking ship. The heroism of the civilian “little ships” – over 700 of which helped in the evacuation – is very well depicted.

Distortions of History

However, there are many serious inaccuracies and inexplicable omissions. First of all, this film makes it seem that virtually every single Royal Navy vessel gets sunk! The Royal Navy seems helpless and heartless and does not get a fair credit for the superb evacuation operation they ran. In the 11 days of Operation Dynamo, the Royal Navy succeeded in evacuating over 338,000 men of which 215,000 were British and 123,000 were French. 95% of those evacuated were on Naval vessels. This was the greatest Naval evacuation to that date.

The British Army Did Not Collapse into Chaos

The British Expeditionary Force soldiers appear leaderless, undisciplined, helpless and fearful, abandoning their rifles, while being fired upon and generally not much of an army at all. I do not believe that their depiction of the BEF soldiers is a fair reflection on what was admittedly an army in defeat and retreat, but the lack of leadership and direction by officers on the beaches, seems more anachronistic. It may be the way that young people today would react in such a stressful situation. However, the historical record is that there was tremendous order and steadfastness amongst the soldiers, patiently waiting in line for boats to evacuate them back to Britain.

No Hospital Ship was Sunk at Dunkirk

The most outrageous inaccuracy is the depiction of a Hospital ship being sunk at Dunkirk! Sinking of Hospital ships is a serious war crime. One British Hospital ship struck a British mine just off Dover, within British waters. It did not sink.
https://www.movieguide.org/news-article ... ction.html


What I found interesting is Hammond pointing out that Hollywood movies often getting technical details on fashion, uniforms, setting correct, but then fail to portray context and essence correctly.



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Re: Dunkirk - Separating Truth from Fiction by Peter Hammond

Postby Sannhet » 3 weeks 1 day ago (Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:44 am)

What sets Dunkirk apart from other WWII movies is its depiction (or lack of depiction) of the Germans.

This kind of transcends the "historical accuracy" discussion, or at least recasts it. Certainly, objectively, "the Germans" at Dunkirk were not evil, if by "the Germans" we mean the men at the front. Yet they are always depicted as such by Hollywood WWII movies. Not so by Dunkirk.

Dunkirk essentially never even shows a single German solider, nor depicts their part in the battle as 'evil.' The word 'German' occurs maybe once or twice in the entire film (the Germans are otherwise referred to as "the enemy," but generally are simply not referenced), and omits the word 'Nazi' entirely. This is remarkable. The dramatized attack on the beachhead at Dunkirk is depicted almost as a form of natural disaster, as if the men are enduring a serious tropical hurricane, with German shells and bombs more akin to downpours of heavy wind and rain; with fast-approaching German planes as dark fast-approaching storm clouds).

On the other hand, we see several scenes of direct, angry confrontations between soldiers of various nationalities on the Allied side (British vs. French; British vs. Dutch; British vs. British), the distinguishing feature of many of these being that no one can tell who is who. I find this to be a very important point with regards to any political analysis of the film. In fact, this "unclarity of who is good and who is bad" is knocked home by the fact that <possible spoiler> the one main character we unambiguously and definitely killed on screen, a British lad racing to Dunkirk on his father's civilian vessel, is done in by a stranded English sailor they pick up who in a temporarily insane rage (from shell shock) knocks him out and kills him. </possible spoiler>

In other words, the "Bad Guy" in this film is not the Germans, but rather the situation, the war itself. The very last words on screen tell us that the film is dedicated "to all those whose lives were affected by the events at Dunkirk." This very neutral language not only fails to "bash Germans" but actually can be seen to include the (unseen-on-screen) Germans, by implication.

In this kind of movie, the question of the political motivations of the director are always up for analysis. In this case, Christopher Nolan (b. 1970 in England), who wrote, co-produced, and directed Dunkirk) was clearly not motivated by a hatred of the Germans. I think Nolan had the admirable courage to recast WWII-in-the-West as a chaotic European brother war, a tragedy, rather than another tired, boring anti-German "morality play." Tragedies are better art than morality plays, for one thing.

If the film is or contains a metaphor for international politics of the entire period, I think it is this: Despite heroism on all sides, the war in the West, certainly at that phase (June 1940), was fought in a cloud of political "nebulousness," a chaotic political situation of unclear mutual grievances and unclear war objectives. In a sense, it was unclear who the enemy even was and why (personified on screen not just by the fact that the Germans were never seen, but also by the fact that many scenes show inter-Allied disputes on the beaches and boats, some of lethal variety).

This is a highly metaphorical reading of the film, of course, as nothing like "international politics" is ever addressed in the film at all; Neither the word 'Hitler' nor 'Churchill,' are ever uttered once. Although one character reads the 'Fight on the Beaches' speech from a newspaper at the end, one has to already know that this was Churchill's speech; a Sri Lankan, say, with minimal awareness of European WWII history, may imagine the 'Fight on the Beaches' the one soldier is reading on the train after landing back in England comes from some ancient poet of Rome or Greece.

Thus, one reading of Dunkirk is that it is a seminal film in the recasting of WWII-in-the-West towards the (today-understood) political terms that educated Westerners of today project onto World War One (i.e., as a kind of senseless war of European fratricide during which there was a curious lack of real grievances between belligerents, heroism-on-the-field amid political indecision). This is, perhaps, the better way to understand WWII-in-the-West from 1939 to 1945, anyway, and long overdue.

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Re: Dunkirk - Separating Truth from Fiction by Peter Hammond

Postby Hektor » 2 weeks 2 days ago (Thu Sep 07, 2017 5:48 pm)

Sannhet wrote:What sets Dunkirk apart from other WWII movies is its depiction (or lack of depiction) of the Germans.
....
Dunkirk essentially never even shows a single German solider, nor depicts their part in the battle as 'evil.' The word 'German' occurs maybe once or twice in the entire film (the Germans are otherwise referred to as "the enemy," but generally are simply not referenced), and omits the word 'Nazi' entirely. This is remarkable. The dramatized attack on the beachhead at Dunkirk is depicted almost as a form of natural disaster, as if the men are enduring a serious tropical hurricane, with German shells and bombs more akin to downpours of heavy wind and rain; with fast-approaching German planes as dark fast-approaching storm clouds).
.....

While I noticed the absence of personally visible enemies and that German soldiers were all but a shadow in this movie, I also recall that they portrayed a hospital ship being attacked and sunk. This was a malicious distortion of the historical facts of that battle.

The movie may not be in the same ball park as the Hollywood Nazi movies. But they're still not off keeping the atrocity propaganda button pushed.


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