Gallipoli

From Wikipedia:

“Born in London, Anthony was the son of H. H. Asquith, the Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916, and Margot Asquith, who was responsible for ‘Puffin’ as his family nickname. He was educated at Eaton House, Winchester College and Balliol College, Oxford.

The film industry was viewed as disreputable when Asquith was young, and according to the actor Jonathan Cecil, a family friend, Asquith entered this profession in order to escape his background. At the end of the 1920s, he began his career with the direction of four silent films, the last of which, A Cottage on Dartmoor, established his reputation with its meticulous and often emotionally moving frame composition. Pygmalion (1938) was based on the George Bernard Shaw play featuring Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller.

Asquith was a longtime friend and colleague of Terence Rattigan (they collaborated on ten films) and producer Anatole de Grunwald. His later films included Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy (1948) and The Browning Version (1951), and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1952).

Asquith died in 1968. He was buried at All Saints Churchyard, Sutton Courtenay, Vale of White Horse District, Oxfordshire, England…

…Tell England is a 1931 British drama film directed by Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas and starring Fay Compton, Tony Bruce and Carl Harbord. It is based on the novel Tell England by Ernest Raymond which featured two young men joining the army, and taking part in the fighting at Gallipoli. Both directors had close memories of Gallipoli, as did Fay Compton’s brother, Compton Mackenzie. Asquith’s father H. H. Asquith had been Prime Minister at the time of the Gallipoli Landings, a fact which drew press attention to the film, while Barkas had personally fought at Suvla Bay in the Gallipoli campaign.

In the United States it was released under the alternative title The Battle of Gallipoli.

The film had originally been intended to be made as a silent film, but was delayed. It was made at Welwyn Studios using the German Klangfilm process. Much of the film was shot on location in Malta, standing in for Gallipoli.”

From the TimeOut website:

Few enough films deal with the traumatic experience of the First World War, and Asquith deserves some credit for tackling the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. His gilded youth protagonists now look unbearably priggish: ‘Just fetch my bath-water in the morning and brush my clothes and see that my buttons are clean and polish my boots and my belt’, an 18-year-old officer tells the middle-aged soldier detailed to look after him. And the action sequences, handled by veteran director Barkas, endorse the public-school heroism. Asquith, with his staunch liberal insistence on the futility of war, puts up a brave fight, but overwhelmed by the 8,000 extras and the flotillas of troop-carriers, he ends up celebrating patriotism rather than pacifism.

Luke Buckmaster wrote in The Guardian of 6.11.14:

“Few films impact the national psyche with as much force as Peter Weir’s 1981 hit starring Mark Lee and Mel Gibson as young athletes shipped off to war. Gallipoli is one of the best loved and most quintessentially “Australian” films. It contemplates themes as baked in to national identity as the fur of a koala and the gristle of a meat pie – from mateship and camaraderie to perceptions of justice (the eternal “fair go”) and obsession with sport and physical performance.

This initially heart-warming but ultimately devastating story begins in Western Australia in 1915 with a training sequence between a drill sergeant-like coach and runner, Archy (Lee). Before Archy blazes through a makeshift finishing line (a string attached to two sticks stuck in the ground) he jogs on the spot and partakes in one of Australian cinema’s most famous exchanges.

“What are your legs?”

“Springs. Steel springs.”

“What are they going to do?”

“Hurl me down the track.”

“How fast can you run?”

“As fast as a leopard.”

“How fast are you going to run?”

“As fast as a leopard.”

Archy crouches and puts his hands in the dirt; later his hands will be covered by a different kind of crud, far away from the Aussie outback. For the first 25 minutes, Gallipoli is an archetypal sports movie, the protagonist establishing his skills in against-the-odds challenges (he outruns a man on a horse then wins a race with mangled feet).

The film begins and ends with Archy running. It could be interpreted as a metaphor for the cruel task taken on by professional athletes: the war against themselves and others, the sweat and tears expended for the arguably futile nature of it all – a universe in which, as certain as bodies slain in battle fields, one record is eclipsed by another. It also reads as a commentary on how emerging genius can be stymied in a world obsessed with other, crueller things, such as fighting and dying for patches of land.

But the most potent interpretation of Gallipoli – and one that hasn’t lost a jot of power all these years later – concerns Weir and screenwriter David Williamson’s scathing deconstruction of the atavistic perception of war as a great adventure…”

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