58th LFF Day 10

Testament of Youth UK CENTREPIECE GALA

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I broke all my own rules going to this film. I generally avoid Galas on the basis that they will have UK Distribution at some point; I generally avoid UK films on the same basis AND I was reluctant to see this film because I had found the BBC series made in 1979 profoundly moving and was not sure I was ready for another interpretation – because the book by Vera Brittain is one of those volumes of war memoirs which merits multiple readings.

But I am glad I went, this is a very measured, elegiac, understated war film. True to the memoir itself, we see Edwardian life as it was enjoyed before the war; we see very little of the battlefield, only what it might have been possible for Vera Brittain to imagine; there is enough but not too much of the wonderful poetry that Roland Leighton wrote to Vera during the war. There is an interesting homage to a famous scene in Gone with the Wind, the scene when the camera pans over the injured after the battle of Atlanta – this time the hospital grounds at Etaples; there is an interesting accident when one of the nurses drops something in the mud – an item so anachronistic that I forced myself to see it as a piece of medical kit, though the Director owned up in the Q&A afterwards.

This is a 600 page book condensed into a two hour film. The important things are there, the BBC mini-series was more than twice as long, so this film could only extract the essence and what it does, it does exceedingly well.

It has UK distribution and will be showing in general cinemas in January 1915

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