A trailer for 14–18: The Noise and the Fury which will play at the 2010 San Francisco Film Festival.
We never see the sadly cynical French “everyman” who is our guide in this film–nor Marthe, his wife, nor Léon, his friend. Their absence keeps us at a distance and makes more chilling the narrator’s sober recollection of his four years in hell—although in 1914, he says, “We were all right behind this war.” To explore why so many continued to consent to World War I’s unprecedented slaughter mill despite certain death or injury and only vague war aims, director Jean-François Delassus delves into a variety of archival materials—colorized film, period advertisements, black-and-white newsreels, even scenes from perennial fictional film treatments, the latter to shattering effect—while engaging leading scholarship on the motivating factors propelling a modern massacre mistakenly labeled “the war to end all wars.” Balancing battlefield scenes with the bombastic exhortations of jingoistic politicians on all sides—even the Bishop of London joins the strident chorus, urging British soldiers to kill the “barbaric” Germans “good and bad, young and old”—the film offers a new and startling perspective on the carnage, underscoring the general consensus among civilians and soldiers, on either side, that they were in a war for the defense of civilization itself. The “14-18” tragedy spawned, as we know, even greater catastrophes. It has left us with an enduring and urgent question, hovering over many subsequent wars since, which is the final one posed by this powerful, poignant film: “What were they all for, those millions of deaths?”