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Film / Thousand-Yard Stare

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Thousand Yard Stare (2018) is a Canadian indie film about an American soldier who fights in World War II. Roland Rothach is a lantern-jawed sergeant in the Big Red One, but a bad day at the Kasserine Pass has changed his life forever. Three different story threads from three different periods are intercut. As one might deduce from the title, the theme of the story involves a Shell-Shocked Veteran.

This film provides examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: possibly played with. The audience is probably supposed to presume this relationship to be the cause of Roland's survivor's guilt, but there is so little dialogue and characterization that the audience never really detects any bond between them.
  • Anachronic Order: Three timelines run concurrently. Roland begins the movie trying to exorcise his demons by writing about the war. The film flashes back and forth, to scenes before, during, and after the battle at Kasserine Pass, jumping around in the sequence of events for dramatic effect.
  • Artistic License – Military: And how. When Roland is captured, for just one example. For some reason two German pilots tie him up and cart him off across the countryside, then when they reunite with their ground forces, Roland is tied up in a tent like Indiana Jones instead of being turned over to the German military police or put in a POW cage.
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  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: One of the timelines is fuelled by this. Roland's senior captor has an irrational mean streak (one of Those Wacky Nazis ) to the point we see him urinating on the sleeping Roland. He is later victim to his irrationality when he battles Roland hand to hand and is then murdered by his rear gunner ( It Makes Sense in Context ).
  • California Doubling: the badlands near Drumheller, Alberta fill in convincingly for the Tunisian desert.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Kasserine Pass was historically this, and the film shows German Tiger tanks and infantry wreaking havoc with the Americans.
  • Desert Warfare: Certainly referenced - the battle of Kasserine Pass takes place in Tunisia.
  • Earned Stripes: the audience is left to simply conclude that Roland has gone from sweater-vested journalist to hard-bitten platoon leader without a real sense of how he got there. All the audience sees is that he has stripes on his sleeve and no one else does.
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  • Non-Action Guy: Roland may actually be this, though probably not the intent of the screen-writer. The film attempts to treat combat stress in a realistic manner without overt heroics, and so the main character comes off as passive. Circumstances are against him, as the Kasserine Pass battle was historically a defeat, and thus Roland can only pass on orders to retreat and watch helplessly as his unit is killed one by one. It doesn't help that he spends most of the post-war timeline staring wordlessly past the camera, wrestling with his inner demons. Even in a dinner party scene, he meekly watches the others argue about the war. His only real action is to shoot a dog that bites one of the children at the house party.
  • Sergeant Rock: studiously avoided. The psychological effects of combat are given a realistic treatment. There are no heroics, just chaos and grisly suffering.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Roland is definitely one of these, or at least, we presume so. There is actually little dialogue in the film.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: averted, unusual for a low budget indie. The tanks in the film are actually historically correct M4 Shermans, Tigers, and Panzer Kampfwagen I Vs. Some of the special effects are less than convincing, but the creators put in at least a modicum of research on the basic vehicle types.


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