Thursday, September 10, 2009

Best British Films: 12. Hope and Glory

John Boorman's Hope and Glory is a film about a young British boy growing up in a London suburb during World War II.

The boy, Billy Rowen, is based on Boorman himself, and he spends countless hours of his youth dreaming of wartime. He collects pieces of shrapnel from the air raids and imagines himself in the throes of battle with his father, who is drafted. He grows up as his country grows grim.

His mother has a harder time of it. With her husband off to war, she is left to raise her children alone during a hard time. She deals with her rebellious teenage daughter, whose sexual awakening is spurred on by the presence of Canadian soldiers in town to do their training. She wakes her children when sirens sound, to get them safely to the bomb shelter in the backyard. Her story probably represents what Boorman has learned of the war as he's grown up. The hardships, the turmoil, the things his young mind didn't fully grasp at the time.

It's an interesting viewpoint, for sure. War and innocence aren't exactly thematic strangers in cinema, but nevertheless battles and bombs from the excitable perspective of a nine-year-old boy does give the film a new and very honest point of view. I personally didn't relate to it on any visceral level, probably because a) I've never experienced war in my country and b) I've never been a nine-year-old boy. Hope and Glory is still an original and wonderfully-constructed film. ***/4


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