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This film certainly came out in interesting times, to say the least. Funnily enough, I once wrote a paper that partially dealt with how World War II "factual mythology" played major roles in the development of many nations' sense of nationalism today, especially the British notion that the UK is a separate cultural entity from mainland Europe while Americans by and large consider British people to be just as "European" as the French and Germans.
Foreign Policy: Brexit’s Dunkirk Fantasyland
he most striking feature of Christopher Nolan’s wonderful movie Dunkirk is that very little is said. Rather, the movie carries the audience through the depiction of the bare human experience of the evacuation of Allied forces from the beaches of northern France as Hitler’s Wehrmacht closed in. Chaos. Fear. Duty. Despair. Relief. Survival. Sorrow. Pride.
Dunkirk also provides us with an insight into the cultural roots of Brexit, which rehearses the idea of a lost golden age before the United Kingdom joined the European Union — one strongly colored by the memory of World War II.
Dunkirk plays a key part in that memory. It marked the end of a catastrophic campaign in France, and the start of a dogged fight back. It gave us Churchill’s immortal words, exclaimed to the House of Commons on the final day of the Dunkirk evacuation on June 4, 1940: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
Nigel Farage, the king of Brexit, tweeted that he urged all young people to see Dunkirk. It is entirely fitting that younger Britons should act as the custodians of that memory, to be honored and passed on to the next generation. The summer of 1940, when Britain stood alone against Hitler, was indeed the country’s finest hour in modern times: Never was so much owed by so many to so few.
But the past has its proper place. History anchors identity, but should not consume it. Like the movie, there is always a risk that a recollection of memory so heavily rooted in emotive experience becomes detached from the story of what happened as a matter of fact: Like Orpheus, who descends into Hades attempting to bring his deceased wife Eurydice back to the world of the living, it is the desire to bring an idealized past back to life that tends to end in sorrow.
Take first Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim that leaving the EU will allow Britain to once again become a “great, global trading nation,” a call that harks back to the imperial world before 1945.
The historical reality was that for better or worse, World War II broke the British Empire, which was effectively mortgaged to pay for the vast costs of the conflict. The British Empire’s trade zone was broken by a series of sterling crises in the 1960s and the politics of decolonization. The big cargo ships had all but disappeared from London’s docks by the time the U.K. joined the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community in 1973.
The U.K. that joined the European institution was on its knees, requiring an International Monetary Fund bailout in 1976. Against Labour Party opposition, the Conservative government that brought Britain into the EEC did so on the basis of free trade. It was none other than Margaret Thatcher who pushed to open up the European single market in the 1980s.
In short, the EU was the answer to the collapse of Britain as a great trading empire, not its cause. The argument that the most deeply integrated free trade area in the world is holding back free trade is ridiculous — look no further than Germany’s huge success as an exporting nation.
But the promise of a return to a golden age is a powerful one, which trumps rational argument. Only in this way can the leaders of Brexit, who are now in government, make these obviously contradictory claims: that Brexit is about even more free trade (that is, more globalization), but that it is simultaneously about returning to a simpler world with fewer immigrants and less exposure to low-cost overseas trading competitors (that is, less globalization).
Singapore on the Thames in England’s green and pleasant land is a weird place, because it confuses the imperial and domestic dimensions of pre-1945 Britain. But that is the idyll to which the Brexiteers want to return, which neatly overlooks 1945 to 1973, years which weren’t so great.
Beyond trade, the memory of World War II evokes a sense of national unity, symbolized in the “Dunkirk spirit,” which can be taken to represent a cultural unity purportedly absent in modern Britain. This attitude is implicit in the claim that Brexit is about “stability” — as if 44 years of British EU membership has somehow disfigured an older and more genuine cultural stability that existed in pre-EU Britain.
This was not some peripheral part of May’s pitch to be prime minister but central to it, and it remains at the core of her government’s communication strategy. Thus, we hear over and over and over again that the government wants “stability,” and an “orderly” Brexit, without “disruption” for individuals or companies.
There is an epic contradiction here. Either Brexit will be the radical change its proponents said it would be, or it won’t. If it’s the former, it will be hugely disruptive to the existing state of affairs — that’s exactly the point! If it’s the latter, and the U.K. ends up in a sort of Norway model, in which it must follow EU rules with no say over them, there will be stability — but Brexit will simply have resulted in a unilateral relinquishing of power by the U.K. for no real change. One would wreak economic damage; the other would be politically unsustainable. Don’t ask me for the way out of this mess; I did not ask for this.
In any case, we are left with the supposed government of stability carrying out Brexit, which is no less ludicrous than if Robespierre had gone around Paris wearing an “I love stability” T-shirt. And be in no doubt: The people masquerading as “conservatives” now running the Tory party are revolutionaries who dismiss anyone who doubts the purity of their project as unpatriotic. They rely on the idea of a return to a golden age to give the impression that they are preserving some sort of deep status quo, some deep cultural stability, rather than radically smashing up the past 44 years of Britain’s relationship with the EU — which, for my money, has left the country better off than it was in 1973.
Ultimately, if the cultural roots of Brexit are reduced to one sentiment, it is that Britain did not win World War II to be run by Germany via Brussels. This is felt more by the older generation, who voted disproportionately for Brexit. It would be rebuked as xenophobic by many of us born well after 1945, including me, who voted disproportionately against Brexit; not to mention that this sentiment does not map onto the facts of how the EU actually works. But my generation did not survive Dunkirk, live through the Blitz, or experience the catharsis of victory in 1945.
edited 7th Aug '17 12:04:45 PM by FluffyMcChicken
@Tampa - That's...actually one of the best ways I've ever seen anyone concluding a debate in this forum.
What's the deal with Brexiters and the Dunkirk myth, anyway? I mean, the whole Western Front is about fighting for a free, open, united Europe where Britain doesn't have to stand alone. Heck, if you look at the movie, Bolton is literally a Remainer.
Different people fight for different things. The idea of a United Europe was indeed a somewhat popular one at the time, both Churchill and the Kaiser beloved in it at one point. But like it said, it roils them to have to be in one effectively ruled by Germany, and yes no matter what they claim and no matter how benevolent the Germans are, that's what the EU has become. Keep in mind by they I mean the 51 percent that voted for Brexit. And many of them had to deal with the Germans dropping bombs on their houses. That's why this mentality is almost non existent in the youth.
Because Dunkirk and the subsequent Battle of Britain are hallmarks of the "Britain stands alone" meme that is typically used to describe the period in between the fall of France in 1940 and the entry of the US and USSR into the war in 1941. Said meme subconsciously gives the illusion that Britain stood out as a lone island of light amidst the sea of darkness that was Nazi-occupied Europe, and that the British people had the plucky wit and determination to hold out against the Germans when all the other European nations clearly did not.
Of course, this overlooks the glaring fact that the US was sending its navy and merchant marine to provide a lifeline of supplies and armaments to the UK prior to Pearl Harbor, while the French decision to surrender was hardly unanimous and there was a significant faction calling to continue the war from the North African colonies. However, "Britain stands alone" was needed as a catchy phrase that could invigorate the British people to continue fighting the fight by portraying it as a test of national character between British courage and French cowardice.
Today, said meme as risen up again as a talking point of the Brexit campaign, which used it to frame the British exit from the EU as some sort of non-violent withdrawal from a German-controlled Europe - a imagined economic Dunkirk.
Let me put it this way: In the lead-up to the Brexit vote, some nationalist chucklefuck murdered a Member of Parliament and then when asked for his name in the trial said "Death to Traitors, England Prevails" or something like that. Nationalism and "Everyone stands alone because everyone else is out to get you" is on the rise lately because the Right Wing is doing a Night of The Long Knives, using fear and strong-arming to make people think a certain ethnic group is out to get them.
"My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain."
Your selling the Brits a bit short. If nothing else you could say that Britain essentially chose to sacrifice it's Empire to defeat Germany. Something worth noting is that you guys and the French were just about the only major allies who did not have to declare war. The USSR and USA were attacked and declared war on by Germany, but Britain and France probably could have just stood by and let Germany conquer Poland and exterminate the Jews, and have gotten off scot free. Hell that Britain First kind of Empire Nostalgia probably would have been better served by collaborating. In a world where the Nazi's won, as grim as it is to imagine, their precious British Empire might have survived a few decades longer, perhaps indefinitely. Plus the Empire fought with one hand tied behind it's back, what with Britain's mercantilist policies keeping them from industrializing, and Britain's ill ease with arming more of it's subjects, many of whom were already chafing under the yoke and harboring dreams of independence and freedom.
I'm surprised that the choice to sacrifice the Empire is not featured more in British bragging about WW 2. You guys gave up a lot and did not have to.
I think he said "Britain First!" Before he stabbed her.
edited 8th Aug '17 5:18:58 PM by JackOLantern1337
Well, the British did "stand alone" for a full year. That was a thing that happened. They had no chance of defeating Germany after May 1940, and their only hope was to hold on until help arrived, which it did in the United States, after Hitler stupidly declared war on the United States, and far more importantly in the Soviet Union, which did maybe 80% of the work in actually defeating Hitler.
But they did stand alone. That was a thing that happened; a rational analysis on June 1, 1940 probably might have led to an armistice. And the French made a deliberate choice to not stand with them, which is why Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys is a trope; the Allies would have been much much better off if France had not surrendered which would have given them access to the French fleet and French colonial garrisons. The history of Britain is complex but when it came to nut-cutting time in 1940 they didn't quit, and you have to give them that.
I think the alone thing depends on if you count the Empire and Dominions as part of Britain. Yeah.
In our haste to break the Cheese Eating Surender Monkey troupe we've forgotten the extent of French collaboration. Even the Dutch government refused to surrender.
Are there different cuts in different theaters? The first time I saw it was on opening weekend in an IMAX theater. Farrier destroys his plane by firing a flare into the cockpit, and then you see the faceless Germans take him prisoner. Today I saw a matinee at a regular multiplex, and neither of those things were in the movie. We saw the burning plane, we see Farrier's face as he watches the plane burn, we saw the Germans coming for him over the dunes, but we don't see him shoot his flare gun and we didn't see him taken prisoner.
There is a chance that several of the extremely wide IMAX shots may have been cut out of the digital version due to the compressed equivalents possibly coming off as awkward and at risk of compromising the emotional immersion of some scenes such as the one you're mentioning. Otherwise, a quick Google search turns up nothing explicitly describing different cuts so far.
Somebody seriously needs to make a video dubbing all of Farrier's lines with Bane's and Collins' with the CIA agents' when the DVD comes out.
Farrier: *puts on flight mask* No one cared who I was until I put on the mask.
Collins: If I pull that off, would you die?
Farrier: It would be extremely painful.
Collins: *with a Bf-109 on his tail* Now what's the next step in your master plan?!
Farrier: Crashing this plane . . . *shoots down Bf-109* . . . with no survivors!
Farrier: *trying to get Bf-109 in his gunsights* You fight like a younger man, with nothing held back . . . *shoots down Bf-109* . . . Admirable but mistaken.
The Heinkel's tail gunner shoots straight into Farrier's cockpit
Farrier: Ah, yes... I was wondering what would break first . . . *shoots down Heinkel* . . . Your spirit, or your body? *Heinkel crashes into oil slick*.
Farrier: *shoots down Stuka while gliding* Hang them where the world can see. *Gracefully glides over Dunkirk with triumphant music* . . . Return to your homes, hold your families close, and wait. Tomorrow you claim what is rightfully yours. Step forward those who would serve. For and army will be raised. This great city... it will endure. Gotham will survive!
edited 15th Aug '17 11:02:04 PM by FluffyMcChicken
After being subjected to a government mandated blackout of foreign films during the summer, Dunkirk has been finally released in China to rise to the top of the country's box office . . . only to be met with calls to be boycotted because it was Too Awesome To Last.
The most egregious thing about the Chinese government's reception is the fact that its reviews blast the film for supposedly glorifying Harold Alexander, who commanded a BEF corps at Dunkirk but more importantly oversaw the retreat of Chinese Nationalist forces in Burma later on.
However, Alexander himself never appears in the actual film. Instead, he is represented by a Composite Character between him and Lord Gort in Colonel Winnant.
Which makes me suspect that - in a rare inversion of the typical Composite Character trope - the Chinese translation deliberately changed Winnant from a fictional character to a real historical figure as to fan nationalist anti-British sentiments.
The fact that "home" was also translated into "motherland" by all means confirms that the dialogue had been tweaked to suit the CCP's tastes.
Seems like the good folks in Beijing are hugely over-thinking this.
Well, they have had to watch Wolf Warrior 2 for the last month.
So, last night I watched Midway (2019).
Large portion of the movie centered around dogfight, but during those scenes I keep finding myself comparing them to those of this movie. Of course, it's a different war movie focusing on entirely different WW 2 operations. Midway was about a massive size, heated naval battle, while Dunkirk was about an evacuation.
Still, in areas where they were similar, like scenes of dogfight, soldiers panicking over enemy attack, narrative shifting between multiple characters, and general tension arising from being in a disadvantaged position, I feel that Dunkirk did it so much better.
I suppose comparing Roland Emmerich and Christopher Nolan really isn't fair. XP
Edited by dRoy on Jan 5th 2020 at 11:22:10 PM
I was initially told Nolan was going to direct Midway and was really excited for a while until I found out it was actually Emmerich.
Midway isn't a bad movie, and I can really appreciate a good chunk of it, but Dunkirk does really sell the tension better.
Midway is more of a Genre Throwback Battle Epic, while Dunkirk is about the in-the-trenches emotional peaks. Dunkirk is the better movie, no doubt, but Midway is compelling in its own right if you view it as a dramatized documentary (it does a very good job conveying the scale and strategy of the Pacific Theater) rather than expecting deep character arcs.
I'm pretty sure neither Midway nor Dunkirk advertised character arcs as its strength.
My problem with Midway was that there wasn't that much tension. Sure, one might argue that it was inevitable due to it based on a historical event with forgone ending, but so did Dunkirk and hoo boy, that movie was filled with brim with tension.
Still, I liked Midway. It's surprisingly well-researched and the dialogues and general nuances are much better than most Roland Emmerich movies. It's a shame that this movie, despite being Emmerich's passion project, has became a box office bomb.
It's basically a simplified adaptation of Shattered Sword.
I think one of the things Dunkirk did well, while Midway did less so, is the camera movement of usage of perspectives.
Like seen in this scene, camera moves with the pilot character and there's a clear sense of location of both protagonist and enemy fighters.
Then again, seeing how enemy fighter pilots and anti-air fire were so much denser in Midway, some things just must've done differently.
In a lesser related note, I just realized for one of the big hits of 2017, neither CinemaSins nor Honest Trailers make a video focusing on movie.
Edited by dRoy on Jan 6th 2020 at 12:35:14 AM
Maybe Character Arc wasn't the right term, but Dunkirk was about conveying the experience of the moment rather than explaining what is happening. I can't recall any establishing shots in Dunkirk (especially none of the sweeping vistas you see in other films). It's kind of similar to First Man in that way, although no single sequence is nearly as drawn out.
Midway is filmed more traditionally, but at the same time still holds on to the "phantom camera" principle, meaning the shots are selected as though there is a camera crew capturing this event and not stylized in a way that calls attention to it being directed and storyboarded (such as the Pearl Harbor bomb drop shot).
Basically, the difference between the two movies is more an example of a film being shot objectively (dialogue and action is presented factually) vs subjectively (the story is told in close ups and POV).
That's much fairer argument.
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