For most of my life I have been fascinated with the history of and films about World War II. This probably began with my great grandpa’s tales of his time serving in the army during the war, which turned into my own imaginings of how he spent his time delivering mail through the dangerous backcountry and crossing enemy lines. No matter what Grandpa Goller actually did in the war, his stories became a springboard for my own fantasies and he soon became the first real hero I knew in my life.
After my brother served several tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, my interest in this genre of film intensified. Perhaps I needed to understand better how and why wars happen, perhaps I sought out a fleeting moment through my heroes' eyes, but perhaps I also just needed to feel that their journeys were somehow connected to my own, even though I would never set foot where they had.
During one of my semesters of graduate school I created a list of World War II inspired movies that I wanted to watch, or rewatch. I created several collages based on the vague sense of loss I experienced when I thought of my brother’s time abroad and of the stories I imagined about my grandpa. There was a separation of time, of distance, and of knowledge between us. I attempted to express the meaning of these collages to my committee and failed miserably - only able to make broad, generalizing statements about why I felt so strongly about WWII and the distance it put between my loved ones and myself.
Some people applaud looking to the past for answers, some call it an escape. I certainly received both remarks during my time as an art student. Now, though, I feel that I can at the very least share part of the excellent list of films I have from my semester of viewing. Some of these are intense, some are comedies, some are from the German perspective, some from the American (this is truly my interest here - German v. American) . . . but all are, at the very least, thought provoking. Pick a few, and enjoy!
*Note: for me, films and stories about the massacre of the Jewish people deserve their own list - so you will not see those listed here . . . these explore the relationships of those fighting in the military.
A World War II German U-Boat crew have a terrifying patrol mission in the early days of the war.
Traudl Junge, the final secretary for Adolf Hitler, tells of the Nazi dictator's final days in his Berlin bunker at the end of WWII.
In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.
Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a thirteen-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit.
Saving Private Ryan
Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action.