I got rather carried away after I saw the latest Sam Mendes film (in the cinema with friends in the States last October… who’d have believed it possible in these strange lockdown days??). 1917 worked its way into the recesses of my brain in extraordinary ways and ever since, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

It is an extraordinary film – a relatively simple narrative, famously filmed with apparently only one tracking shot, describing a journey on foot over just 24 hours during the Great War. But it is the visceral visual impact, reinforced by the soundtrack, that demonstrated everything a cinematic experience ought to be. Just not the same on a small screen, let alone a portable screen.

But, as I said, I did get carried away. I found myself obsessed with the narrative and so on several evenings I started trying to map the journey undertaken by two lowly British Tommies. And this is the result… I can’t vouch for its total accuracy, not least because I’ve not seen the film again since. But hopefully it makes a point. [Though to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what that might be]

George MacKay as LCpl Schofield

Anyway, this provoked some very random thoughts about a number of things, including British war artists from the 1st World War, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and postmodernist worldviews. It somehow came together in an article for our friends over at The Rabbit Room. Click here to read more.

Colin Firth as the fictitious General Erinmore
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20th Century

“O Tempora! O Mores Evangelicii!” 9. Believing the propaganda

You will know of Godwin’s law, I’m sure, whereby the longer an internet discussion countinues, “the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” So, I’m afraid, the time has come.

One of the most gripping if chilling works of history that I’ve read is one that I find myself returning to a lot these days, despite the fact that it is well over 10 years since I first encountered it (in early research for Wilderness of Mirrors). Sir Ian Kershaw has spent a lifetime researching 20th Century German history and has brought all kinds of profound insights to the anglophone world (including through his mammoth two-volume biography of Hitler).

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