One famous 1970s TV programme produced by Henri de Turenne and Daniel Costelle entitled Great Battles of the Past offered a lyrical—if somewhat theatrical—portrayal of some of the major battles to have “made history”. It is in recognition of such programmes—admittedly dated by today’s standards but no less fascinating for it—and in full awareness of a particular notion of war films, still held by some who are yet to attend War On Screen, that we have decided that each year’s festival will feature a film telling the story of a battle, or where such a battle is central to the plot.
This year, we begin with Letters From Iwo Jima, a 2007 film directed by Clint Eastwood. The film is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It is the second in a two-part work, of which its companion film, Flags of Our Fathers, offers a critique of heroism and propaganda through the portrayal of three men (the survivors) who raised a US flag on Iwo Jima. The historic picture taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal on 23 February 1945 is the inspiration behind the poster for our fourth Festival this year. And so, Letters from Iwo Jima is the companion work to Flags of Our Fathers, which featured the battle of Iwo Jima filmed from the American side. This time, the US director places himself on the Japanese side as he films the horrific battle that took place in February and March of 1945. It is somewhat unusual in the history of filmmaking to see things from the “other side’s perspective”, especially from the perspective of the Japanese, who are consistently portrayed as being both exceptionally cruel and utterly loyal to their country.
“In most of the war films that I saw during my childhood, there were goodies on one side and baddies on the other. Life is never that simple, and neither is war. Both of our films speak neither of victory nor of defeat. They show the consequences that war has on human beings, many of whom die far too young”, Client Eastwood confided.
- Olivier Broche