War and love could be said to be polar opposites. However, in the film "A Very Long Engagement (2004) by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the two intertwine, as the main character, Mathilde, a young woman with polio, begins a search for her lost love, a French soldier who was sent into No-Man's Land by French authorities with four others, when they all tried, in various ways, to go A.W.O.L. Taking place after the war, the film mixes the cultural milieu of post-World War I France with gruesome scenes of trench warfare, revealing the emergence of a decided anti-war sentiment, which Mueller contends is a product of late 19th century and post world war I shifts in cultural consciousness.
Prior to the 19th century war was seen as inevitable, a part of life. By the end of the 19th century, those who still proposed war as a positive, enriching experience, believed any war that would be fought would be characterized by the achievement of brevity: two or three month long wars at the max would be all that would be required to achieve its aims.
[...] The name of the trench where the five convicted deserters are sent is entitled Bingo Crepuscular which is, from an artistic point of view, an indication of the way in which the director draws smartly from post World War I artistic culture, in particular the DADA sensibility that began in Zurich before the war was completely over, as well as the photo-collages and paintings of European expressionist artists, from John Heartfield to Otto Dix to Kollowitz. (Apel, 1997) The character of the cook, who we see both in the gruesome sequences in the trenches, and in the aftermath of the war, when he appears as an eclectic bohemian in suspenders, riding a Harley motorcycle, is an icon of resistance and a solid heterosexual masculine representation. [...]
[...] (Mueller: One question that would be worth further study and pursuit is whether the intertwined themes of war and love, as oppositional states, one of death and emptiness, the second of hope and brightness, is truly a post world war I thematic development in culture, a way of society's artists and thinkers, putting into artistic form this switch away from celebration of war to another set of images: war as necessity under circumstances, a fight of right against wrong, but with war itself no longer romanticized as it used to be. [...]
[...] The striking contrasts between horrific violence in battlefields where the war seems completely purposeless, juxtaposed to deep purposeful spirituality and ideas of cultural resistance in peacetime, and resistance by those in the battlefield during the war itself, recreate or rethink the period in a way that is meant for audiences to grasp personal and collective responses to intense horror and disruption of normal life at the end of the 1st world war as a universal expression of a continuing desire for world peace. [...]
[...] From an explosion in a makeshift hospital that kills everyone locked in it, to visceral images of carnage on the battlefield, the sweetness of chocolate, as representative of life in peacetime, acts as a symbol of an alternative way of viewing the world Significant anti-war protest, as found in the arts of the post-world war European avant-garde, emerge, in part out of the war-ravaged imaginations of actual once delirious artists who had survived the debacle, many of them, especially the men, having served in the war and in the trenches. [...]
[...] Mueller contends that it is not the extent of brutality of the 1st world war that led to an aversion to war in its aftermath. He remarks that throughout history, all wars have been fought with a view to hacking and annihilating as many of the enemy as possible, with many previous wars more bloody and destructive in contrast to the 1st world war, which for one example, created the Red Cross as an organization to help the wounded rather than leaving them, as had been the usual in the past, to die on battlefields, after being stripped of all of their material possessions. [...]
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