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Remembering WWI's Bloodiest Battles

Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
November 18, 2016 -
December 11, 2016

Every year of World War I was terrible, but 1916 especially, the year of Verdun and the Somme, shockingly demonstrated the pure insanity of that war.  The Battle of Verdun began when the Germans attacked and took Fort Douaumont in February, and lasted until mid-December, during which the French and Germans suffered almost a million casualties between them.  The Battle of the Somme resulted in more than one million casualties, mostly suffered by the British, in just four-and-a-half months between July and November.  How does one even begin to visualize such carnage?  Cultural theorist Paul Virilio postulates that war is as much a matter of bullets ripping through live flesh, as it is a struggle over competing illusions, from the spectacle of an artillery barrage to the semantics of whistling bombs, to say nothing about the cinema’s deep culpability in creating propagandistic fantasies of war for a consuming public.  As a result, filmmakers have sought numerous strategies for memorializing war, without falling prey to the spectacle of war as visual pleasure, whether employing extreme realism or emotional abstraction.  While Hollywood produced a series of romanticized visions of war in the 1920s, including The Big Parade (1925) and What Price Glory (1926), it was only All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), and its sequel, The Road Back (1937), that viewed the war critically, but it took a post-classical Hollywood to produce an anti-war statement as brutal as Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun (1971).  For Europeans, WWI was much closer to home, and politically controversial, making not only G.W. Pabst’s Westfront 1918 (1930) a provocation for conservatives, but also Richard Attenborough’s cabaret interpretation, Oh! What a Lovely War (1969).  As all the films in the series demonstrate, the wounds of war remain 100 years later.

Program curated by Jan-Christopher Horak.

Past Programs & Events

Title Date and Time Location
Oh! What a Lovely War

Oh! What a Lovely War

Sunday, December 11, 2016 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Johnny Got His Gun

The Road Back  /  Johnny Got His Gun

Friday, December 9, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater
War Requiem

Many Wars Ago  /  War Requiem

Sunday, December 4, 2016 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Verdun, Vision d'Histoire

Verdun, Visions d'Histoire

Sunday, November 20, 2016 - 7:00 pm Billy Wilder Theater
Westfront 1918

Broken Lullaby  /  Westfront 1918

Friday, November 18, 2016 - 7:30 pm Billy Wilder Theater