January 25, 2011

"The Way Back"

I review Peter Weir's The Way Back, with Ed Harris and Colin Farrell as escapees from a Soviet Gulag camp in Taki's Magazine:
The truth is that a vast number of survivors walked home from Soviet camps in the 1940s and 1950s, including a distant in-law of mine. He had been an Italian soldier posted to fight General Patton’s invading American army. When Mussolini was overthrown, peace was declared and he deserted. But the occupying Germans rounded him up and sent him to the Eastern Front, where the Soviets captured him. When the war ended, the camp commandant opened the gate and gestured in Italy’s general direction. It took him two years to trudge home. 

56 comments:

Whiskey said...

Steve, Peter Weir's best films would include Picnic at Hanging Rock, the Last Wave (simply brilliant, striking imagery), and the Year of Living Dangerously.

Weir is fascinated by water, how it drips, rains, and surges. Coming from a famously dry, and then intermittently flooded landscape, one can see why. So too, his fascination with mysticism of all types, from Aboriginal to Indonesian to Western.

Nature is always a character in his best movies, and always on its own side. I am looking forward to putting this one on Netflix the soonest it becomes available.

Too bad that the Academy doesn't team up with Netflix to offer streaming viewing for a limited time of the movies. It would be a cheap and easy way to generate pub and interest.

TH said...

Another movie on the same theme is the German As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, which is pretty good, as is the probably mostly fictional book by Josef Martin Bauer that it is based on.

The Kengir Uprising story could make an interesting movie.

Hail said...

When the war ended, the camp commandant opened the gate and gestured in Italy’s general direction. It took him two years to trudge home.

I hate to do this, but is there documentation of such cases, beyond verbal histories? Beyond someone claiming he did something? It is a spectacular claim to say one walked through sparsely-populated Siberian tundra thousands of miles in 1945-47, without any ability to procure food [no money or barter goods] or ability to speak the local language. (If this man was captured in 1944 and really released in May 1945, presumably he lacked the time to learn much Russian).

One is reminded that, in the past, apparently it was possible to walk to school uphill both ways in five feet of snow (according to a common satirization of "what I did in my day").

TGGP said...

ZenPundit has an interesting review of The Bloody White Baron, on Roman Ungern von Sternberg.

currahee said...

I remember reading the book several years ago, wondering why he did not name the British officer who found him in India. Or why such person never came forth. (and the Yeti stuff was a bit much).

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

A few years back I read "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," which was thoroughly depressing. For some reason, the part that haunts me most is when Solzhenitsyn discusses the camps outside the gulag. People had been freed, but had no way of getting back home, so their only recourse was to subsist outside the prison walls.

greenrivervalleyman said...

Ha! Lina Wertmuller should be paying this distant in-law royalties. Looks like she ripped off his life-story as the basis for Seven Beauties :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that the reactionary soviet slavers let anyone walk away from their "people's plantations", i.e. the Gulag death camps.

Maybe they actually had a shortage of guards, and thought that it was not worth the trouble of keeping ex-enemy POWs.

I'm even more surprised that Hollywood made a movie about Communism at all, and what more shown it as less than positive.
This is the same Hollywood that keep churning out anti-Nazi propaganda tearjerkers long after the event itself - and by now everyone with half a brain must have got the message.

Anonymous said...

I wish these films stuck to facts than making stuff up. It's not just this but MOST movies.

Btw, notice that much of this movie takes place AWAY FROM the gulag. Imagine if a Holocaust movie was mostly about Jews far away from the death camps.
Thus, WAY BACK becomes more a travulag than a gulag.

Anonymous said...

I love YOLD, but Weir, though competent and ambitious, hasn't been one of my favorite directors. I suppose MAC was solid filmmaking but there wasn't much to think about.
Mosquito Coast was one of his more ambitious films but pretty confused.
Didn't like Witness, Fearless, Truman Show, etc, even though they were well-made. Something soulless about his movies. Something a bit new agey.

Anonymous said...

Passion of the Zek.

Larry, San Francisco said...

People are extremely ignorant about the evils of communism. One time I got in an argument with a very liberal Baptist minister (yes, a left-wing Baptist) about whether Mao or Stalin was as evil as Hitler.
I was thinking that best story about the Gulag to make into a movie was Georgi Tenno's tale called the White Kitten. It was from Solzhenitsyn's 3rd book and is online at Google Books. In the story 2 men escape from the Gulag but end up betraying themselves by acting humanely.

Anonymous said...

"I'm surprised that the reactionary soviet slavers let anyone walk away from their "people's plantations", i.e. the Gulag death camps."

Gulags were labor camps. Without work projects, they were a burden to maintain, so it was better to 'lay off' the workers.
And though many people died, most survived. Death rate was 1 out of 10, not 3 out of 10 in Nazi camps--much higher ratio for Jews, of course.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat on topic, a Romanian friend told me once (talking about her parents' wartime experience) that the borders of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were open for a year or so after the war. A person could go anywhere.

Not at all what you'd expect.

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

"When the war ended, the camp commandant opened the gate and gestured in Italy’s general direction. It took him two years to trudge home."

"I hate to do this, but is there documentation of such cases, beyond verbal histories? Beyond someone claiming he did something? It is a spectacular claim to say one walked through sparsely-populated Siberian tundra thousands of miles in 1945-47, without any ability to procure food [no money or barter goods] or ability to speak the local language. (If this man was captured in 1944 and really released in May 1945, presumably he lacked the time to learn much Russian)."

Good point. Besides, I wouldn't trust an Italian. Even Michael and Fredo couldn't trust one another.
But I think stuff like that was common. It was also true after the liberation of Nazi death camps. Lots of Jews and others were just told to 'go home', especially in areas occupied by the Soviets. Many Jews walked a good part on their way to Palestine.
And if you escaped, what could you do but walk and walk? It's like the Japanese guy, after escaping from a Soviet labor camp in HUMAN CONDITION III, walks and walks. He doesn't make it but I guess some did.

Even in America, when they let you out of jail, you're all alone unless someone comes to pick you up--or at least that's how it is in the movies.

Kylie said...

Whiskey, thank you for your perceptive comments about Weir's films. PAHR and The Year of Living Dangerously are two of my favorite films.

In addition to water, mysticism and nature generally, what it means to be an outsider is a theme Weir often explores.

More to the point of Steve's review, I saw a documentary on either the History or Military Channel a few years ago about Siberia. I don't know about walking to and from but apparently, those sent there by train were not given food or water for the journey that took several days.

For as long as I can remember, popular culture has been fixated on Nazism to the extent that Communism is virtually ignored. I can't imagine why this is so.

P.S. I see Taki's homepage is still "horribly feminine and liberal".

Anonymous said...

In one of his books, Col. Jeff Cooper (the now-deceased pistol-shooting guru, writer, and military man) recounted the story of a German veteran who escaped a Soviet POW camp during WWII and walked the long way back, surviving various dangers and struggles along the way. At the request of the escaper, from whom he had the story directly, Cooper omitted to name the German-- but Cooper could be trusted in these matters. Unless Cooper was deceived by a very good con-man, the story was true.

Anonymous said...

This is the same Hollywood that keep churning out anti-Nazi propaganda tearjerkers long after the event itself - and by now everyone with half a brain must have got the message.

They will never tire of it as long as there is a white person anywhere who is not suitably contrite.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the dislocations of war, George Orwell's October 13, 1944 "As I Please" column has an amusing anecdote of a somewhat different type:

"Recently I was told the following story, and I have every reason to believe that it is true.

Among the German prisoners captured in France there are a certain number of Russians. Some time back two were captured who did not speak Russian or any other language that was known either to their captors or their fellow prisoners. They could, in fact, only converse with one another. A professor of Slavonic languages, brought down from Oxford, could make nothing of what they were saying. Then it happened that a sergeant who had served on the frontiers of India overheard them talking and recognized their language, which he was able to speak a little. It was Tibetan! After some questioning, he managed to get their story out of them.

Some years earlier they had strayed over the frontier into the Soviet Union and had been conscripted into a labour battalion, afterwards being sent to western Russia when the war with Germany broke out. They were taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to North Africa; later they were sent to France, then exchanged into a fighting unit when the Second Front opened, and taken prisoner by the British. All this time they had been able to speak to nobody but one another, and had no notion of what was happening or who was fighting whom.

It would round the story off neatly if they were now conscripted into the British army and sent to fight the Japanese, ending up somewhere in Central Asia, quite close to their native village, but still very much puzzled as to what it is all about."

Like most accounts of this kind, its credibility is somewhat suspect - among other things, if the Tibetans were genuinely unable to converse with anyone, it's hard to see how they could have known which fronts/armies they had fought on.

Anonymous said...

"People are extremely ignorant about the evils of communism. One time I got in an argument with a very liberal Baptist minister (yes, a left-wing Baptist) about whether Mao or Stalin was as evil as Hitler."

People who read books know the truth but most Americans don't reads books about world history, at least outside US and Western Europe. Many don't even know that WWII was mostly a war between Germany and USSR than between US/UK and Germany.

Most people know of Russia and China through the mass media. During the Cold War, Russia was the bad guy but had sympathizers in the mass media. Also, because USSR didn't lose the war, its crimes were not exposed for the world to see. If Nazis had won, Holocaust would be more hearsay and rumor than facts documented on film.

And a lot of liberals got to know China during the late 60s and early 70s when Mao was portrayed by liberal media as an okay guy who did wonderful things for China. And in order to use China as a counterweight to the USSR, even American conservatives kinda endorsed this line. Mao became Uncle Mao, like Stalin became Uncle Joe during WWII.
Revelations about Chinese commie madness came out in the 80s, with Time magazine reporting over and over on the madness of cultural revolution, but it was more anti-Mao than anti-communist. Mao's victims--other Chinese communists--were portrayed as heroic and noble.
And during the 80s, there was Gorbachev and a kind of love affair between Western media and New Russia.
And to end the cold war peacefully, even American conservatives tried to bury the past--to assure Russians that they would not treated as losers or the vanquished. So, there was no push to punish communist criminals.

And of course, there's the ideological difference. Nazism was hate that killed whereas communism was love that killed. Christians and Aztecs killed a lot of people but Christians did it in the name of God of Love while Aztecs did it for their god of something like bloodthirsty hate. Killing is bad but reasons do matter.

There is also the Judeocentric factor since Jews control the media.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine why this is so.

200 years, Kylie, 200 years.

Simon in London said...

anon:
"And though many people died, most survived. Death rate was 1 out of 10, not 3 out of 10 in Nazi camps--much higher ratio for Jews, of course."

Hmm - I recall that 50,000 Germans surrendered at Stalingrad, and 5,000 of them survived to come home - a 1 in 10 survival rate. I expect the typical survival rate was higher, but 9 in 10 seems unlikely, at least in WW2 (or prior).

Fred said...

"I'm even more surprised that Hollywood made a movie about Communism at all, and what more shown it as less than positive."

Watch Enemy at the Gates, about the battle of Stalingrad. It starts off with a Jewish NKVD commissar shooting conscripts who dive into the freezing Volga in an attempt to desert.

"Imagine if a Holocaust movie was mostly about Jews far away from the death camps."

You don't have to imagine that, because such films have already been made. You might like The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which doesn't even show a ghetto, let alone a concentration camp.

"Somewhat on topic, a Romanian friend told me once (talking about her parents' wartime experience) that the borders of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were open for a year or so after the war."

I've heard the same thing.

Harry Baldwin said...

Anonymous said...In one of his books, Col. Jeff Cooper (the now-deceased pistol-shooting guru, writer, and military man) recounted the story of a German veteran who escaped a Soviet POW camp during WWII and walked the long way back, surviving various dangers and struggles along the way. At the request of the escaper, from whom he had the story directly, Cooper omitted to name the German-- but Cooper could be trusted in these matters. Unless Cooper was deceived by a very good con-man, the story was true.

Yes, that story is in Cooper's To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth, in the chapter "Survivor." I have a friend who worked as an instructor at Gunsite and met the German in the story when who took a class at the shooting school in the late 1970s.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

I read The Long Walk w/in the last year or two. It was fascinating, but the brief research I did afterwards argued convincingly that the story was made up. The author's sighting of a Yeti should have tipped me off.

Maybe not too ironic given the subject matter, but someone also mentioned A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which I literally just finished.

Steve Sailer said...

"I hate to do this, but is there documentation of such cases, beyond verbal histories? Beyond someone claiming he did something? It is a spectacular claim to say one walked through sparsely-populated Siberian tundra thousands of miles in 1945-47, without any ability to procure food [no money or barter goods] or ability to speak the local language."

I didn't say my distant in-law walked from Siberia without ability to procure food. That would be tough! He was let go in 1945 from a POW camp (more likely in Eastern Europe than in Siberia) and arrived home in 1947. I don't remember the details of the story, which I was only hearing about 4th hand, but along the way, he probably got jobs, probably got jailed, might have gotten help mailed to him by his family, probably hitched rides, stowed away on boats, jumped trains, etc. Still, it must have been difficult surviving. But, stuff like that happened to lots of people in the 1940s.

Fred said...

"Hmm - I recall that 50,000 Germans surrendered at Stalingrad, and 5,000 of them survived to come home - a 1 in 10 survival rate."

Most of the Germans who surrendered at Stalingrad (closer to 100,000) died before they ever got to the gulags. Some were shot, but most died of exposure, disease, and starvation. Most of them were in pretty lousy shape to begin with.

The Russians had surrounded the German 6th Army group in November 22nd, 1942 and the Germans could only send in a fraction of the necessary supplies by air. German troops started dying of starvation soon after. The ones who survived until the 6th Army Group's surrender in the beginning of February were in bad shape. Survival rates among the minority who made it to the gulag were much higher.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks for the story about the two Tibetans. John Derbyshire told it to me a few years ago and I tried to find room to wedge it into the movie review.

Steve Sailer said...

"the Last Wave"

That one gave me nightmares, since I was already prone to nightmares about tsunamis.

Anonymous said...

There were no prisons in USSR. All prisoners were sent to Gulag. labor camps. Gulag held both criminals and political prisoners (said to be in approximately equal ratio). Just to give a sense of scale of what was going on: Gulag's population peaked at somewhere around 1,700,000. Given that USSR population at that time was about 190 millions, this gives incarceration rate 0.9%. Compare this to 0.75%, the current incarceration in the USA.

Survival rate in the Gulag was better than 9 in 10 most of the years:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gulag_mortality_rate_1934_1953.PNG

Anonymous said...

When the war ended, the camp commandant opened the gate and gestured in Italy’s general direction. It took him two years to trudge home.

Almost certainly not true. Just like The Long Walk was completely made up story.

Kylie said...

"I can't imagine why this is so.

200 years, Kylie, 200 years."


Sorry. I guess I should have used those silly sarc and /sarc signs.

I used to post on a left-wing board and actually saw someone post that at least under communism, Russia was industrialized.

I saw no point in making any analogy between train schedules in Italy and industrialization in the USSR. I've always found the left to be seriously irony-challenged.

Anonymous said...

Read Primo Levi's "The Truce," sequel to Survival in Auschwitz, for a great account of how crazy and unsettled Europe was at the end of WW2 and how long and circuitous a route it could take to get back home at the end of the war. It's a wonderful, picaresque tale in its own right, though many of the readers here won't like it because the narrator is a Jew and the Russians he encounters are mostly sympathetic and helpful.

From a New Yorker overview of Levi's life and work:

Between their endemic chaos and the fact that, for much of this time, there was still a war on, it took the Russians seven months to get Levi pointed southwest rather than northeast of Auschwitz—he had a leisurely stroll through Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania, and Hungary—but they fed the ex-prisoners well when they could, and gave everyone (babies included) ten ounces of tobacco a month, and put on variety shows, with singing and dancing, in the holding camps.

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/06/17/020617crbo_books#ixzz1CCcgYiO5

Anonymous said...

"the Last Wave"

"That one gave me nightmares, since I was already prone to nightmares about tsunamis."

Possibly sound is as or more crucial to horror than to any other genre. Most genres are about what's happening before your eyes. Horror is about what lurks around the corner or in the other room... or in some dark corner of your heart..and it is through sound that much of this is conveyed. LAST WAVE is audio-istically eerie and unnerving.

A comparable horror flick is WOLFEN. In both films, the primitives are both source of wisdom and wickedness, making us feel even more uneasy. No clear sense of good vs evil.

Coincidentally the most horrible thing in GRIZZLY MAN exists only in audio--the two people screaming while being mauled by a bear--, and Herzog doesn't play it for us.

I wonder how deaf people react to horror films. Do they feel less fear--since they hear less--or they feel more fear since they know they can't hear the lurking danger?

Anonymous said...

I don't buy the part about being freed and abandoned in Siberia. Desperado fugitives aside, people got out of there same way they got in - under armed guard, using Gulag transport service, fed by authorities. If that did not happen, the commandant in charge was guilty of not doing his job, basically.

Also, Soviet Union during and immediately after the war was a desperately poor place with police authorities gone mad hunting down deserters, criminals, "saboteurs" and similar. So if you don't have the rationing papers, the money, the id papers and the lots of luck, you are not going to travel far in this environment. Indeed, your best chance would be to get arrested and get the authorities somehow sponsor your trip back home.

Anonymous said...

"There were no prisons in USSR. All prisoners were sent to Gulag. labor camps. Gulag held both criminals and political prisoners (said to be in approximately equal ratio). Just to give a sense of scale of what was going on: Gulag's population peaked at somewhere around 1,700,000. Given that USSR population at that time was about 190 millions, this gives incarceration rate 0.9%. Compare this to 0.75%, the current incarceration in the USA.
Survival rate in the Gulag was better than 9 in 10 most of the years:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gulag_mortality"

But we must remember that there was no clear distinction between gulag and non-gulag. Conditions outside the gulag could be just as bad or even worse. Most Ukainians who died in the Great Famine didn't die inside the Gulag but on their own lands. Volga Germans and Baltic Germans were resettled in harsh areas in the East where many perished. Estimates of Kazakhi dead from executions, deportations, forced migrations, and other deprivations go as high as 1/4 of the population. Koreans in Manchuria were resettled in salty lands of Uzbekhistan, killing 40% in the first year. Poles inside Russia were shipped off to Siberia, not necessarily to gulags. Many died from hunger and exposure. Many were just outright shot.
And David Mitchell's novel GHOSTWRITTEN has one of the most powerful and moving narratives on communist horrors--crimes by the Soviet puppet government in Mongolia.

Another thing. Soviet archives have still not been fully opened.

Anonymous said...

Even though Richard Kapucinski--spelled diff in Polish--has come under suspicion for making stuff up, all of his books are superb reads. If he made stuff up, he told better false stories than most journalists told true stories.

HIs book on Soviet Empire IMPERIUM is a fantastic read even if some of his figures for the dead may be on the exaggerated side.
HIs books on Africa and the soccer war in Latin America are riots too.

Anonymous said...

Real spelling: Ryszard Kapuściński

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/06/ian-jack-ryszard-kapuscinski

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/mar/03/ryszard-kapuscinski-story-liar

Maybe he shoulda been a Hollywood writer. If he made stuff up, he sure knew how to do it.

WAY BACK, SCHINDLER'S LIST, PATTON, CASINO, ETC, ETC, how much was real, how much was made up?

The movie that was most faithful to its source, as far as I could tell, was PRINCE OF THE CITY. Saw the film then read the book.
Follows the book almost detail by detail.

Anonymous said...

This is a good piece on non-fiction vs fiction, what is and isn't truth in journalism and reporting.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/10/fiction-non-fiction-kapuscinski

I hope Kapuscinski wasn't the out and out liar that Alex Haley was.

Is Gladwell a science or fantasy writer?

Anonymous said...

REALLY surprising to see not just an A-list Hollywood film made about Communism, but to see Ed Harris starring in it.

Watch Harris refuse to clap for Elia Kazan at 1:37 here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YziNNCZeNs

Kazan actually named names of Communists in Hollywood. Even a die-hard leftist like Warren Beatty (the guy who made Reds) clapped for Kazan's big reconciliation moment, but not Ed Harris.

The stories of Communism could power 1000 movies. It's just not true that Hollywood is truly suffering from a lack of new ideas/scripts.

Fred said...

Ed Harris also starred in Enemy at the Gates (as a German officer/sniper instructor).

Mr. Anon said...

Peter Weir directed "Master and Commander", one of the best films of the last ten years (and one of the most reactionary, I might add) - I will certainly go see this new one by him.

Hollywood certainly hasn't made too many movies critical of communism since the 50s. Offhand, all I can think of were "Dr. Zhivago", "Topaz", and a handful of others. I found "Reds" to be pretty anti-communist, although that wasn't Warren Beatty's intention: all of the commmies in the film came off as self-important a-holes and it was impossible to like them.

To be fair, there was a long stretch (the 60s - 80s) when Hollywood didn't make all that many anti-nazi films either. War films of that time did not feel the need to relentlessly hammer home the whole "germans are evil" meme; instead they tended to treat WWII as just yet another war rather than some kind of holy crusade.

Of Gulag films, there are very few. There was a good made-for-TV movie from the early 80s called "Coming out of the Ice", about an american commie who went to the soviet union to build the worker's paradise and ended up in the gulag:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083749/

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

REALLY surprising to see not just an A-list Hollywood film made about Communism, but to see Ed Harris starring in it."

I was too. Harris is a real pinko. But he probably felt he needed a role; it's not like he's been in a lot of movies recently. Just goes to show how shallow actors can be.

Dan Kurt said...

re: The "LONG WALK" made up? Did actual stories of individuals walking from the Gulag happen?

During the 1970s met a man who was a pilot in the Luftwaffe in WWII. He spent 5 years in the Gulag he claimed and escaped by walking South into China when China was in its revolutionary war. I knew him quite well and heard many, many tales. I and others urged him to write a book about his experiences but he never did as he died from a stroke before he reached 60.
He was a convincing and brilliant individual. Deep down I believed him but how does one know the truth.

Dan Kurt

Anonymous said...

It's just not true that Hollywood is truly suffering from a lack of new ideas/scripts.

Just as some ideas are forbidden to be thought, so too are some scripts forbidden to be written.

Anonymous said...

The survival rate for German POW in the Soviet Union had a direct relationship with the rank of the prisoner. Of the 90,000 surviving German soldiers at Stalingrad who where sent off to Vorkuta maybe 5,000 returned. Most of those were officers and of those, the number of generals who died was relatively low.

Of those who survived, as well as the German population in Soviet occupied territory at the end of WW2, they could thank the idiological struggle between communism and fascism. The Soviets were constantly on the look out for prisoners (tounges) that would convert to socialism and help run the new order in Europe.

Without the idiological struggle, Russians would have viewed it as the Nazis did, which was a race war, something which the Germans would have paid an even heavier price for their defeat.

The wierd thing is that Russians admire the Germans and even like them. First, Russians are racists themselves. Second, WW2 was the apex of the Soviet Union and Russia. By defeating such a worthy competitor they build their own stature. Lastly, there is a long history before and after WW2 that helps soften the horrible crimes that the Nazi's committed.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Orwell's story about the Tibetans, it's a good one, but really weird fish-out-of-water stuff like that happened a lot in the Second World War.

Even better attested is the incident on 6 June 1944 with the US Army's first batch of prisoners on the Normandy beaches: among them were two East Asians who turned out to be Koreans. They had been conscripted into the Japanese army (Korea then being a Japanese possession), and taken prisoner by the Soviets at the battle of Khalkhin-Gol (Nomonhan) in 1939. Later, the Soviets conscripted the two from their PoW camp into the Red Army. They were captured in turn by Germany on the Russian Front, and then signed up with an Osttruppen unit to get out of the conditions in the German PoW camp. The Germans sent their unit to garrison the Atlantic Wall.

Anonymous said...

"Hollywood certainly hasn't made too many movies critical of communism since the 50s."

WHITE NIGHTS, ELENI, KILLING FIELDS, RAMBO, UNCOMMON VALOR, SAKHAROV, MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE(liberal anti-communism), RED DAWN, ROCKY IV, LIVING DAYLIGHTS, GREEN BERETS, UGLY AMERICAN(liberal anti-communism).

Anonymous said...

HEARTBREAK RIDGE, SPACE COWBOYS,

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

"Hollywood certainly hasn't made too many movies critical of communism since the 50s."

WHITE NIGHTS, ELENI, KILLING FIELDS, RAMBO, UNCOMMON VALOR, SAKHAROV, MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE(liberal anti-communism), RED DAWN, ROCKY IV, LIVING DAYLIGHTS, GREEN BERETS, UGLY AMERICAN(liberal anti-communism)."

Okay. You've got a point. There are more than I remember. Although "The Killing Fields" placed some of the blame on America (the bombing drove them to it). I'm not sure that the "Manchurian Candidate" could be labeled anti-communist - it's message was rather ambiguous. And in "The Living Daylights", the soviet empire was just a backdrop, and one of the good guys (well, one of the lawful evil guys anyway) was a soviet spy (the John Rhys-Davies character). To your list, one might also add K-19, The Hunt for Red October, and Amerikka.

Anonymous said...

HEARTBREAK RIDGE, SPACE COWBOYS, et al.

by ANONYMOUS

Oh, wow. A week's worth of casual movie-viewing. You've certainly made your point, comrade.

Anonymous said...

"K-19"

K-19 is not a political movie. It's a great movie. But the title is all wrong. When it came out, I thought it was sequel to K-9, with 19 puppies or something.

Anonymous said...

Though I'd like to see this movie, the question of this movie's veracity and gushy-wushiness do bother me. I feel the same way about SCHINDLER, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, BEAUTIFUL MIND, etc. The usual response is "it's only BASED on a true story", but these 'true story' movies tend to be very emotional. It makes us feel we saw something real--unlike with most movies. We feel as if we witnessed TRUTH. So, our emotions are more deeply affected than usual. So, when a lot of these stories turn out to be seriously distorted or overly fictionalized, I feel cheated. Not so much because of WHAT HAPPENS--narrative--but WHAT IT MAKES YOU FEEL--emotions. It's like lying that you ate at a certain restaurant isn't as grievous as lying that you're very sick and have only six months to live. I was touched by BEAUTIFUL MIND, but when I read the book, IT HAD ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MOVIE. It was not just a factual congame but a 'spiritual' fraud. (But I still like it.) Even 'inspired by' is a stretch.
This is why people who make up Holocaust stories are worse than other liars. They are scum exploiting a great tragedy for fame and fortune.

How much of SCHINDLER'S LIST is real? Physically, it remains powerful but much of the Capraesque stuff was probably made up. Of course, there is hope even in the darkest times, just like a ray of light can enter a dark dungeon. But there's nothing to think about. The movie asks us for faith, with eyes and hearts. It's a child-like movie about a very adult theme.

Far more interesting film is KATYN, which makes us THINK, like the Wajda's other film MAN OF MARBLE. Wajda's message isn't just 'have faith in what I show you'. He understands history as politics, propaganda, power play, distortions, lies, myths. And he doesn't claim to know everything that happened. So, both KATYN and MAN OF MARBLE are presented as a search for history. It deals with 'history' before finally revealing some of the unquestionable facts of history.
I hope our remembrance of the Gulag doesn't turn into another religion like Holocaust thing.

Anonymous said...

But then, who am I kidding? BEAUTIFUL MIND won best picture and was a hit while almost no one saw stuff like PRINCE OF THE CITY and KATYN, at least over here.

Steve Sailer said...

There are a couple of issues.

1) Lots and lots of people walked home from Soviet camps (and, no doubt, even more died trying). One question is how many walked home via Tibet, which traditionally ranks with Timbuktu as the ne plus ultra of remoteness. Walking home via Iran is cool, but via Tibet is awesome (e.g., that's why Brad Pitt played a Nazi SS officer hero in Seven Years in Tibet -- it's a true story about a guy who escapes to Tibet! Who cares if he's in the SS? It's Tibet, baby!) But we only have vague evidence (one British colonial official's recollection) of Poles escaping via Tibet.

2) I suspect Weir felt handcuffed by the controversy over the authenticity of the story and that kept him from adding more plot fiction to the story. If the story were well documented, he could have felt free to make up all sorts of stuff, like in The King's Speech or The Social Network, and made it a less linear, less minimalist, more satisfying plot. (But it's still pretty good.)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of long walks:

Chinese workers set out on long march through Libyan desert to reach Tripoli