War Film Genre

Matthew Jaskot English 102-7 9:30 A. M Avodian September 20, 2012 War from the Beginning War films have been around for quite some time. They have many different aspects to them. Each film has a little bit different view, depending on what the director wants the audience to get out of the movie. Some target the importance of how horrific and heart breaking war was, while others were used to inspire their country to support their troops.
There are films though that go straight to the point of war and show all of the intense combat, the pain and suffering the soldiers did for their country, and the brutality of what countries did to prisoners in concentration camps. War films never get dull, they will keep the audience interested and on the edge of their seat the whole time, unless of course a person cannot handle the blood and sight of innocent soldiers being blown to pieces just to serve their country. As soon as cameras could take moving pictures of combat, war became a popular subject for narrative movies.
Although no one can be certain of the exact first war movie, many historians feel it is probably a one-and-a-half-minute war film, Tearing Down the Spanish Flag , made on a set in New York City immediately after the United States declared war on Spain in April 1898. All the wars in American history have had stories told about them by Hollywood, although some wars are more popular than others. War films started to get important when they started trying to rally the U. S citizens into believing that the America needed to enter the war.

In films like Over the Top and The sinking of the Lusitania rallied the American people by showing them when the Germans sank the Lusitania, when we were neutral in the war. That was enough to make the people mad and influence them to go out and join the military and to go to war. These films were not very long, but were enough to bring out the American spirit in the citizens. When the U. S entered world war one, Hollywood saw it as one of its greatest sources of plots and of course a great source of profit. The films were “responsible, irreplaceable pieces of teaching” (Youra 22).
People could see what was happening at the war, and realize what their soldiers were going through. These films were used mostly as a recruitment use, and as way to make the people angry towards the enemy, suggesting that heroic American involvement would bring home victory. We could see ourselves that the war demands not only on the nerves of the soldiers but also to those who had to stay at home (Kaes 22). Not only did films like these inspire people to join the military, but made the people who stayed at home become aware of the how nerve racking and crucial the war was.
War films died off for a period of time after the war, since there was no need to rally the people during a time of peace. Eventually the films picked back in the mid twenties. The first film to really bring start the production of war films again was The Big Parade, it was the first to realistically portray the horrors of battle and the struggle for survival by three soldier-comrades. This film made more money than any other MGM production during this time. These films were more gruesome than viewers were used to seeing.
Hantke states that the war was a place of death; imminent, inevitable, violent, inexorably physical, and omnipresent: bloody death, grim death, death without metaphysical or transcendent comforts (702). Films like these really showed how awful and painful war was to those who never went oversea to fight. These films of course had other plots behind them besides war. There was sometimes a love story incorporated into war films. Shortly after war films came back, films about aviation came about. They showed intense dog fights and how nerve racking it was to be a fighter pilot.
One of the first films to show this type of combat for the first time was Wings. Not only was this a great deal to show this type of war fare, it was the first film ever to have a separate reel of film for sound effects. This movie showed how dramatizing aviation was, also it was about two pilots who were in love with the same woman, and again love was a secondary plot of this movie like other war films. This was the start of an era for talkies. This really made the film industry take off, people loved hearing the sound effects, and this got the audience more involved with what was going on.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, this really made Hollywood prosper in war films. Nineteen thirty three was not only the annus mirablis of adolf hitler and Franklin Roosevelt, it was also the year of Hollywood’s awakening to fascism (Bernard 41) They again started making movies to try and get the U. S. to enter World War two, when America has been neutral for so long, trying to avoid war. Though films were not needed to America to join the war, the destruction that had been caused to Pearl Harbor should have been enough to rally the people, to get them angry and wait to fight back.
Films about World War two were not only made during that time period, but some of the best films created were made later on in the twentieth century. The series of The band of Brothers has to be one of the most in deft movies made about this war. They reenacted the whole war with current actors, what really made the film though is the interviews the producers did with actual soldiers from the war. This movie doesn’t just show soldiers at war, but shows them training to go to war. The pain and suffering they went to become a soldier.
Now isn’t about all the troops that went, but a single troop of the one hundred and first air bourn division The movie Saving Private Ryan is another great film from the twentieth century. Its’ plot is about finding a soldier who needs to be taken home since he is the last living sibling of his family. The troop that went to get him had to do anything and everything to save his life and get him to safety. Starring Tom Hanks as the captain of the troop he, leads them into the heart of war to find this soldier. Movies made later on about world war two, had much greater special effects than of course movies back then, due to technology.
World war two films didn’t just idolize the war, but the technology that was developed during this time of war. The icons would include the . 45 automatic, the M-1 carbine, and the American military dress (Whillock 247). Technology such as these weapons added to the effects of war, hearing weapons such as these automatic guns going off so quickly made the audience aware of how dangerous it was to be fired upon by the opposition. No one could see any bullets flying, by the time a soldier heard the first gunshot they could be dead.
Obviously there were never any films made about the civil war during that time period, because the idea of a motion picture had never even been thought of yet. It wasn’t till later on were the war films about the Civil War made. One of the earliest films made in 1939 was Gone with the Wind. In this classic a manipulative woman and a roguish man carry on a turbulent love affair in the American south during the Civil War and Reconstruction. This movie was more about a woman trying to find love during a time of war instead of just war itself.
The Patriot, which was made in 2000 was about a man trying to not get involved with the American Revolution against Britain. He wanted nothing to do with the war after being involved with the Spanish American war, which haunts him every day. When his son runs off and enlist, he had no other choice but to follow him, to ensure the safety of his son. Soon this film turns into a man wanting revenge, when his son is killed during a battle. Mel Gibson, the star of this movie, will stop at nothing to get revenge on the man who took his son away from him. War films have progressed so much over the years.
Form being just a quiet film of black and white, to modern action packed movies full of special effects. These films have been important in every war America has been involved with. They not only informed Americans about how tragic war is, but got citizens to become soldiers and fight for the country they love. Films about war will always continue to be made due to there is so much to cover. There were so many battles that have not been produced on film yet, that could create great motion pictures. War films will continue to be made, since war seems to be a never ending subject around the world.
Works Cited Dick, Bernard F. The Star Spangled Screen: The American World War II Film. Lexington: Kentucky , 1985. Hantke, Steffen. “The Military Horror film: Speculations on a Hybrid Genre”. The Jounal of Popular Culture 4 Nov. 2010: 701-719. Kaes, Anton. Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War. Princeton: New Jersey, 2009. Whillock, David E. “Defining the Fictive American Vietnam War Film. ” American Film Journal 18 (Summer 1990) 244-250. Youra, Steven. “James Agee on Films and the theatre of War”. Film Criticism 10 (Fall 85) 18-31.

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