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(YouTube) Video Saturday Cinema - The Charge of the Light Brigade 1968 - Personality conflicts, national egotism, social climbing and confusing orders culminate in disaster in the Crimea   ( divider line
    More: Video, personalities, Crimean, Crimean War, high definitions, Sevastopol  
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725 clicks; posted to Video » on 08 Mar 2014 at 3:53 PM (3 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2014-03-08 09:27:11 AM  
I've actually seen this film and it is quite good.  I don't want to spoil it, but it doesn't end well 8p
2014-03-08 09:31:47 AM  
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What happened was this: when fighting the Russians in the Crimea on October 25, 1854, two aristocratic twats who hated each other so much that they didn't speak to each other, caused an order to be written that made sense when viewed from the heights, but was utterly confusing to soldiers below. The result was that British cavalry charged straight into Russian artillery (map) at point blank range and got blown to smithereens.

If that's too confusing, watch this sketch from the nice people at Horrible Histories.

This is a film what are probably the most studied set of orders in military colleges. The Errol Flynn version had so many inaccuracies it made Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor look like a documentary.

In the same way that Americans do cowboys really, British filmmakers do Victoriana well. It's here in glorious color and beautifully lensed by David Watkin (Catch-22, The Three Musketeers/Four Musketeers, Robin and Marion, Cuba, Jesus of Nazareth, Hanover Street, Chariots of Fire). It's such a beautifully lush film. Director Tony Richardson (Look Back in Anger, Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Tom Jones, Hotel New Hampshire, Ned Kelly) decided to make the film as much about themes as the military events. In some respects it reminds me of early Chrichton books that were peppered with mini-essays.

To preserve authenticity, no male actors used makeup, and female actors only used what makeup was available during the mid-19th Century.

The terrible, vicious and petty social climbing is made much of, for instance, in an instance where the protagonist is mistakenly upbraided when a superior thinks he's drinking the wrong beverage at a champagne dinner. (The incident did occur, by the way, but not with Captain Nolan, but another officer.)

Captain Nolan, a professional officer, is at the mercy of aristocratic soldiers who are basically using the lives of the poor to play soldier. One of the themes explored is how the army was a way out of poverty for the illiterate boys of the era. Men marching into town wearing bright red uniforms playing drums and trumpets were an amazing sight to teens who'd never been more than few miles from home.

If you can't quite put your finger on why the film looks the way it does, you're not alone. According to IMDB: "Unusual lenses and lighting effects were used throughout the film to give it the feel of Daguerreotype and other older photographic processes, thereby giving the movie more of a feeling for the time [period]." The cinematography is stellar. When Nolan points toward what he thinks is the enemy and then the camera tracks to use a parallax shift toward another target, is just brilliant.

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Watkin more famously used a similar parallax effect in Catch 22 at the end of the initial take off scene to help establish the film's surrealism.

The screenplay was written by Charles Wood from an uncredited first draft by John Osborne. According to Wiki, it aimed to be brutally authentic, based in part on the research in Cecil Woodham-Smith's The Reason Why (1953).  In 2002, Osborne's unproduced original script was reworked into a radio play for BBC Radio 4.

The film has animations based upon the propaganda used in the era's illustrated newspapers. These to provide background information to contemporary audiences but also show how this or that group was portrayed in the partisan press at the time. Cartoons in the middle of a feature film? Hey - it was the 60s.

For my money, if you want to read up on the subject, the best book ever written on the matter was the funny and horrifying  Flashman at the Charge. He sums up the aftermath perfectly. A government commission studying the self-inflicted disaster found that fault lay with the chain of command. This was clearly the incorrect answer so a second commission was struck that came up with the correct answer: it was the fault of Mr Nolan who had the good manners to be deceased.

Link to last week's Saturday Cinema.

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2014-03-08 10:34:13 AM  
Fer Chrissakes, you weren't loaded up for this one, were you?
2014-03-08 11:52:25 AM  
Too long and boring. Iron Maiden did it better
2014-03-08 05:10:24 PM  
This occurred during a period of transition for the military.  Firearms were pretty much standard issue and the cavalry's usefulness was questionable.  A cavalry charge against a dug in position of rifles and cannons was suicidal.  All too often, military officers refuse to change with the times and advancing technology and continued to use outdated practices.  Just a few years later was our own American Civil War.  The lessons learned from this war by our own officers (on both sides) were, almost none.  And fifty years later in WW1, officers were still ordering men to charge fixed positions with little or no chance of success.
2014-03-08 11:02:13 PM  

OgreMagi: This occurred during a period of transition for the military.  Firearms were pretty much standard issue and the cavalry's usefulness was questionable

The Brits were too used to fighting in colonial India, where cavalry was still very useful and would stay useful for half a century.
2014-03-09 01:48:33 PM  
Very timely choice.
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