Monday 24 July 2017

What's In A Film?

It has been difficult to avoid the news that there is a new film "Dunkirk", running time 106 minutes, in the cinemas. It is not a repeat of the 1958 one but a 21st Century one, no doubt quick cutting vivid noisy and of its time. We have had a lot of wars since then and need to keep up with them.

Already the critics point out some flaws. The railway carriages for the returning men are said to be 1970's vintage. The name of the Beach Master, a crucial figure, has been changed for reasons unknown. The sharp eyed and informed will also spot problems. I bet the uniforms may be right but will not reflect the reality of the wear and tear of being in the field.

Part of the debate about the film is what impact if might have on the audience of today. In 1958 there were a good many people around directly or indirectly connected with Dunkirk 1940 and some of those were in the film. There are not many left of them. I was around at the time but childhood memories are sketchy and too affected by false memory from later sources.

This audience mainly reliant on modern education and propaganda will have little or no idea of the period nor of the significance of the rescue operation. It is old history which in our new Europe we are trying to forget along with much of the rest of history in favour of our modern concerns.

What always interests me in many aspects of history and the way it is told is what is left out or is unknown because no record has been kept or again because what was happening we do not fully grasp because we do not really understand the period and the people and who and what they were.

A major question is why didn't the Germans finish the British Army off and capture the lot? Here it gets technical which usually has the effect of provoking a loss of interest or belief. As ever there could be several interacting issues relating to the condition of the German Army and the thinking and talking going on among their General Staffs.

One is the tanks and in particular the tank tracks. By Dunkirk the German panzers had been going hard for enough time for major repairs and tank track replacements becoming vital, especially if a French counter attack might happen. We may know now that it wasn't going to but the Germans did not. And the tanks were needed for the drive South.

Having served in an Armoured Division and spent quality time running round the countryside chasing tanks these great hunks of metal take a lot of TLC to keep going. They also need a formidable amount of support that has to be organised and directed.

For the German infantry they had been on the march for a few days and despite their successes no doubt there had been wear and tear on them and their equipment. How exhausted they were is guess work, but we can assume they were needing respite. But the units left by the British to stop them and fight it out were hard to overcome.

Then there is the artillery. Again the German guns were good and well organised, at least when they started, but they too were likely to need repair, replacement and what ammunition was left and how much was going to be needed were other questions.

Behind all this are the logistics. Again, the German Army was capable, but even the best armies cannot go on stretching its logistics for too long before the strains show, shortages arise and the planning is no longer met by performance.

Along with success can come complacency. It is quite likely that seeing these battered crews of men going back to England without their kit, their weapons and in major defeat the Germans took the view that they would never come back and the best course was to conserve their resources to finish off France fast.

But unlike in many films we know what happened next.

1 comment:

  1. "no doubt quick cutting vivid noisy and of its time"

    Bound to be. Apparently it was described in The Times as "106 clamorous minutes of big-screen bombast".