Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Hope and Glory

(USA, UK, 1987)

Hope and Glory (1987) (UK) (USA) John Boorman was eight years old when war was declared and the bombing of London, known as the Blitz, began. And he has made those experiences into a unique take on it all. He shows it from a child’s point of view. And the crazy thing is, unless your own house has been destroyed or you’ve just lost a loved one, war can be fun! It creates instant playgrounds of rubble and shattered furniture and knick-knacks, fun chunks of shrapnel to collect, runaway barrage balloons to enjoy, even German pilots parachuting down into your patch of broccoli. Best of all, one day a stray bomb might land on your school, and you and your classmates can go berserk with joy, looking at the sky and shouting “Thank you, Adolf!”

This is not to minimize in any way the horrors, the suffering, the deaths and injuries, the millions of starving refugees in Holland, the soldiers freezing to death on the Russian Front. But that’s all happening somewhere else. You hear about it on the wireless, it’s not real. What’s real, for a child, is what’s in front of you, and that is all exciting for you and your mates. For a child, even a death among your friends is something you can’t really absorb. One little girl goes up to another whose mother has just been killed, and asks her if she wants to play. The main boy in the story is Billy, and when his house burns down (from an ordinary fire, not a bombing!) his main concern is not that their house and all their belongings have been lost; he hates it that all the people are staring at his family.

This is in a class with Mrs. Miniver, which was the first and most effective film I ever saw about the British Home Front. It’s that good. Sarah Miles is wonderful as the mother, who can’t bear to evacuate her children to the countryside, as thousands of British families did. Ian Bannen shines as the crotchety old grandfather who has a fabulous house on the Thames. Sammi Davis is good as the incredibly self-centered, boy-crazy teenage daughter. She later went on to do a lot of films with Ken Russell. The boy, Sebastian Rice-Edwards, is good. He didn’t make another film until 2014! This was nominated for a bunch of Oscars and BAFTAs, including Best Picture, and won only one, a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress. So once again Oscar got it wrong, picking the pretty damn boring The Last Emperor.