Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Testament of Youth (2015)

Roland and Vera-their doomed love would change the world forever
The story may have been fancied up with gorgeous cinematography but the film version of TESTAMENT OF YOUTH will suck the air out of your lungs and feel you like you’ve been gut punched by a champion boxer. There is no getting around its power to reveal the ultimate waste and pointlessness of war.

Based on Vera Brittain’s classic memoir about the loss of a generation during the First World War TESTAMENT tells the story of Brittain from before the war when life was wonderful, hanging out with her family on through the hopeful days of the war when everyone thought they’d be home by Christmas. However as the war stretched on and the boys started to fall (including Brittan’s brother and fiancĂ©e), life was changed forever, especially for Brittain who volunteered to be a nurse on the front.

While the film is focused firmly on Brittain and her experiences, the film reveals what it was like for anyone who had someone close to them at war. And while the film doesn’t show the war itself except in flashes of memory or in the horrors of the hospitals, the film gets across the suffering of war very clearly, one need look no further than the description of Roland‘s long an agonizing death.

It should be pointed out that the film is neither a complete recounting of Brittain’s memoir, the film is only focused on the years of 1914 until 1919 and only on specific people close to her before the war (her future husband is only seen fleetingly), nor is it the gospel truth. Sections have been rearranged , left out or fictionalized. (The changes, such as her nursing he wounded brother in France, were based on Brittain’s own changes when she was originally writing the book as a novel instead of memoir).

This film kicks your ass. People around me during the screening could be heard to audibly react to events on screen. Even they knew it was going to end badly, they still groaned “oh god” at times. As much as I like the film I don’t know if I want to go there again.

If there is any bump in the film it would be that the film is a bit too dour to start. The sense of death and doom hangs over the film from the first frame, and while that all well and good for those of us who know Brittain, the halcyon days obefore the war shouldn’t have felt as much like a funeral. We should be shocked at the horror to come not know it’s a foregone conclusion.

On the other hand even if you know the story and whats going to happen you will still crawl out of the theater on your knees shaking your head at the loss.

A wonderful and powerful anti-war statement that’s worth your time.

The film hits theaters in the US Friday

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