“Hope And Glory,”

By Eric 'Renderking' Fisk - May 2nd, 2008  Bookmark and Share

I remember so many details of 1987 because it was such a pivotal year of my life. It often feels like those events happened mere months ago rather then two decades past. I thought I remembered all the movies I had seen in the theater, but until recently my mind drew a blank when it came to "Hope And Glory." This motion picture just never registered as a period film and has thus become a forgotten favorite. I rediscovered it on line via Netflix and had to see it again immediately with my sons.

This is pretty basic view of World War II and the Blitz over London and one of it's suburbs through the perspective of a young boy and his family, Bill. This is very gritty, engaging and at times almost too realistic in depicting the ways children grow up too fast and wild during war while the adults cram what little life they can into the care-free days they have left before the cruel realities of war set in.

As the barriers and morals of life fall away between the sexes, the quiet evenings are pierced with air-raid sirens and falling bombs that are shattering buildings and landmarks, we're allowed in to the lives of these very real people. We, as the audience, experience their hardships and see them brought closer together by the chaos and impending doom. At times it seems that the best thing that ever happened to these people and their relationships is the war due to the way they're forced to rethink what's really important in life.

 

Ren's RantsBesides Bill, most of the characters in this movie have their own individual story line. Starting with his father who signs up to rejoin the service shortly after the declaration of war. Clive wants nothing more than to do his part and fight for England and be the best soldier he can be - even going so far as officer training. When he learns upon finishing Officer Candidate School that he's too old to actually be an officer, he takes great pride in doing his clerk tasks, using a typewriter to fight for England.

His mother, Grace (Sarah Miles) tries to keep the family together and alive as they stay behind. Grace is responsible for getting the kids to bed on time, then to the air-raid shelter in the middle of the night. Through her eyes we see the horror the bombs bring, fear for her family as she prays that she be taken and her children spared. We also see her push the boundaries in her platonic friend and tries to cope with eldest daughter Dawn (Sammi Davis) reckless relationship with a Canadian corporal.

Dawn comes to grips with being an "adult" before she turns 17 and thus before this movie is over she's a mature, but still painfully young, mother.

Rounding out the memorable characters is Bill's grandfather (Grace's father) played by Ian Bannen, a cetaceous elderly gentleman who's rough around the edges and resents the modern technological advances and moral erosion. He's a commanding taskmaster, while simultaneously being caring and generous with his family.

"Hope And Glory" is a mere 'slice of life' movie that's supposed to be a semi-autobiographical story of writer and director John Boorman's youth during The Blitz. There's the feeling of hyper-reality to this film, the sense that someone went back in time with vintage 1980's film stock and shot this during the beginning of the second world war. The heroism of that period is still there. What makes this movie so great is that it has a lot that's missing from the period costume dramas and action-adventure movies we adore - such as trying to make do with the bitter cold and snow while living on rations. I literally felt World War II through the eyes and ears of Bill, his family and neighbors. While life looked hard, or maybe even impossible at times, I couldn't help but become more enamored with that period after watching this movie.

The message about the importance of family and loving each other despite our feuds and gripes shouldn't be ignored or discarded. There's the sense that people don't know what they're really made of or what they're capable of doing until something horrible happens and they have to over-come the hardships that follow. During these troubling economic times, this is a message that should be retold and listen to again.

 

But the question remains, how come I'm such a huge aficionado of World War II period films and I forgot all about this one?

The main reason why "Hope And Glory" has been forgotten as a genuine World War II period film is that during the final quarter of the movie it stops being just that. In the scenes after Bob's family loses the house to a fire they move in to his grandparents home along the river. "Hope And Glory" stops being about trying to survive during the global conflict and how it personally affects these people. This movie quickly becomes more about the lazy days of summer in this picturesque location as if the war simply didn't exist. The motion picture abruptly becomes about the passage of time as family members brace for the death of some loved ones and the birth of others, rides down the river, and having a "normal" childhood. Those off fighting the war who return for various reasons are often treated as intruders.

 

The war itself makes a brief cameo return in the end when Bob's school is destroyed by a Nazi bomber: hence the movies most famous line: "Thank you, Adolph!" After Bob and his fellow students revel in the destruction, he returns back with his Grandfather to the house by the river and his perfect summer-filled bliss continues despite the encroaching signs of autumn, not the war.

For movie goers and vintage aficionados there's also the sense that "the world" can only embrace one huge period film each year, and "Hope And Glory" failed to fight to get out from underneath the shadow of "The Untouchables." The motion picture which became the vehicle that launched Kevin Costner to stardom with his portrayal of Eliot Ness and Sean Connery won an Oscar for his roll as Jimmy Malone was too much for a small movie like "Hope And Glory" to over-come. "Hope And Glory" also had to compete with the "Ironweed" starting Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, "Radio Days" scripted by Woody Allen, and "Empire Of The Sun" directed by Steven Spielberg.

But the more I think about this film and it's images the more I realize that they have engrained themselves into my mind. While watching this I was reminded of dreams that I've had over the years and that much of the "material" was reused in my subconscious. I didn't forget this movie, it became intertwined with my memory as if what I saw on the screen actually happened to me. Despite the major "flaw," this movie is now so essential for all World War II history buff and vintage aficionados because of the first 3/4ths of the film. There is just so much "there" in regards to the day-to-day details in this film that to get the full experience you have to watch it at least twice. Like all great period films, it's not only about what the past really was but what the filmmakers thought about World War II and life on the home front at the time the movie was made.

 

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