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Categories: Features

Anne-Sophie Marie talks about her experiences, new and old, with war films and how they’re shaping her current work on the subject.

I’m guessing that at some point or other, every screenwriter is told that the key to a gripping story is to follow a protagonist/characters that fight through both external and internal conflict, which might be what makes many war films so riveting.

I’d also venture to argue that a few generations ago, the external part of the conflict played a bigger part in War films than its internal counterpart (eg WWII films), with Vietnam War films such as Platoon and Apocalypse Now playing a pivotal part in this balance. War, and the way we perceive wars, has evolved, and when listening to the news our ears may have now become more familiar with the word ‘conflict’. Are they that very different from each other?

Let’s take a look at the Oxford Dictionary’s definition(s) for each word:

War (noun): 1 A state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country. 1.1 A state of competition or hostility between different people or groups. 1.2 A sustained campaign against an undesirable situation or activity.

Conflict (noun): 1 A serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one. 1.1 A prolonged arms struggle  1.2 A state of mind in which a person experiences a clash of opposing feelings or needs. 1.3 A serious incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests.

Although the two definitely have their overlaps, I have recently found myself avoiding the more visually spectacular War films (that’s right: I have yet to see Dunkirk simply because the trailer didn’t spark my interest), while yearning for those who bank more on conflict.

I randomly fell upon Edward Zwick’s 2014 Pawn Sacrifice, a drama based on chess player Bobby Fischer’s battle against Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky. In the film, Paul Marshall (Michael Stuhlbarg) tells Father Bill Lombardy (Peter Sarsgaard) that they’re fighting a “war of perception: the poor kid from Brooklyn, against the whole Soviet Empire. The perfect American story.” Later, Lombardy replies that “this game is a rabbit hole.”

Speaking of going down the rabbit hole, the biopic also features Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit, which I’ve always associated to Platoon.

Parallel to this, I lost interest writing a WW2 script about my very own grandparents in favor of a story of diplomatic tensions focusing on two men with a different set of beliefs, also based on true events and dealing with preconceptions men from different countries can have of each other, as well as various levels of corruption present in some political and bureaucratic circles, but also possibly and tragically inherent to every human individual. Because in a world of Alt-right and fake-news, the “war of perception” coined in Pawn Sacrifice seems more on topic to fanfares of planes, ships and explosions. And how we stop wars, how we prevent the conflict from escalating, and what motivates us all in those choices, might be an interesting new story (Thomas Harper’s War Book, which follows a group of British civil servants as they play a war game, was incredibly gripping for that).

Given their box office success and critical acclaim, there’s still of course a great future for War Films, but I’d be thrilled if we also start seeing conflict-packed “Non-War” films.

Note: As for the story I mentioned, there will be a staged reading of its full length play script version in central London Friday September 8th 2017, 7-8:30pm. The event will be free and feedback will be most welcome, thoughts on a screenplay adaptation especially.  If you would like to know more or/and would like to attend, please contact us at theballerina2017@gmail.com


Posted on Sep 5, 2017

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