World War One began 100 years this July, and the BFI commemorates the centenary with a series of films looking at the pre-war world.
This July marks the 100th anniversary of a conflict whose scale and brutality scarred the world forever: World War One. Politically and artistically there was no going back to a world before this conflict, but nostalgia for the peace and security of a pre-war world held a special place in the public imagination. This new BFI season looks at post-war films that attempt to bring the world back to life through the illusion of cinema, and its programme of films offers a powerful insight into the mind of a culture trying to remember what the world was like before its great trauma.
One film that launches us straight into a war stricken Europe though is Frank Borzage's A Farewell to Arms, an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's famous novel of the same name. Its plot centres of a flowering relationship between Frederic Henry, and American serving the Italian ambulance brigade and Catherine, a woman who lost her fiancée during the was. The strength of their love emerges as a redeeming force amid the carnage of the war and, as its title suggests, the film is all about bidding farewell to conflict and healing its wounds with the balm of romance.
Max Ophulus' Leiblei follows a similar romantic theme, taking us back to early twentieth century Vienna where a love affair between a young lieutenant and a musician's daughter is in full swing. But this film has none of the optimism of A Farewell to Arms, and its conclusion stresses the ephemerality of joy and the precariousness of happiness in a world that is about to be plunged into a nightmare of destruction.
Showing films that imagine a world before the war is a clever way of commemorating the conflict's centenary, and these films show up more poignantly the effects of the trauma of the war in their attempts to forget it.
MEMBERS' EXCLUSIVE: 'A Farewell to Arms' - this forgotten masterpiece based on Ernest Hemingway's novel is on at the BFI until 26 June. We're collaborating with the BFI to offer Culture Whisper members the chance to enjoy the film with a £1.50 discount. Simply quote HISTORY online, in person or over the phone (020 79233232)
|What||The War that Changed Everything: The World Before the War, BFI Southbank|
|Where||BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, Southbank, London, SE1 8XT | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
03 Jun 14 – 29 Jun 14, 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to book via the BFI's website:|