Sorry for the wait for the next review. I've been on a short vacation.
With Paths of Glory
, Kubrick creates his first of many great films. Trench warfare, no man's land, the need for advancement, all of World War I, France in all of its glory. Loyalty, honor, cowardice, justice, pride are just a few of the themes this film captures with stark honesty and with a grim outcome. Even though this is only my second viewing of this film, my heart was pumping with every passing second.
What becomes a recurring motif for Kubrick, the film is divided in two parts: Life in the trenches culminated with an unnecessary suicide attack and the fallout of said attack with a mock trial intended to "boost morale."
Both acts are driven by the divisional commander Brig. Gen. Paul Mireau's pride, pride to gain promotion, pride to avoid embarrassment for what he perceived to be cowardice. This is a man who steps his way through double talk with his corps commander, Maj. Gen. Georges Broulard, regarding an attack he knows is impossible and claims to care about his troops but gracefully changes his mind when promotion is waved over his head. This is a man who believes shell shock doesn't exist. This is a man who will not take no for an answer no matter how absurd his request is. This is man who demands greater loyalty to himself from Col. Dax than to Dax's own men. This is a man who will lie through his teeth to keep his pride even in the face of irrefutable facts of his disgrace and dishonor. Only Kirk Douglas' Col. Dax takes the effort to fight against Mireau's pride to defend the honor of his men.
After the failed attack not only proves to be fruitless, but the men fail to even pass their own lines (some not even leaving the trenches), Miraeu forces Dax to pick three men to be trialed for cowardice (only after being "negotiated" down from hundreds of men and Dax offering himself up in place of his men). What follows is a miscarriage of justice despite Dax's efforts to defend his men with his coincidental experience as a lawyer prior to the war. To further emphasize the revulsion of this situation, one of the men suffers a skull fracture prior to execution but Mireau's pride is relentless: the man will still be shoot and insists the man will be conscious at the time of the execution.
Kubrick masterfully directs this film that's greatly heightened by continued presence of Gerald Fried's music that is reminiscent of Stalag 17
and The Great Escape
. Film is boosted even further with an excellent cast which includes Douglas, George Macready, Adolphe Menjou, and Rallph Meeker. Kubrick's third and final wife, Christiane Kubrick, appears in the final scene as a German singer. Joe Turkel, who played one of the accused soldiers, previously appeared in The Killing
and later shows up as the ghostly bartender in The Shining
(as well as Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner
). Timothy Carey, who played another of the accused soldiers, also returns from The Killing
I end this review with the following quote from Miraeu: "Col. Dax, your men died very well."
Next up: Spartacus