“They Filmed The War In Color”. Yes, really. There were restrictions on professional color film, to be sure. They could only make rah rah propaganda films at major studios: Technicolor musicals with singing and dancing, designed to make everyone feel patriotic about distant conflicts. This left state-of-the art recording to the truest auteurs there ever have been or will be: the makers of home movies.
There were so many restrictions on what they could or couldn’t film, (who, what, when, where, why, how) it’s amazing there’s anything left to see 60-70 years later. There’s enough for two feature-length documentaries, one on the European theatre, the other on the Pacific. They are a revelation. We can almost reach out and grab the participants in this real-life horror story. They look like us, they express themselves naturally, since no one is directing them to be anything but who they are.
In Europe, creature comforts are stripped away one by one, and in every case, the people adjust and resign themselves to their reduced circumstances and dwindling freedoms. But there is a glint in their eyes that communicates volumes about how they feel about their lives, even if you can’t read their lips or speak their language. In the Pacific theatre, the eyes of the teenaged combatants are filled with reined in terror and dread, and very rarely a flicker of fun and relief. Some ordinary incident had caught their attention, something they might even notice in peace time. “They Filmed The War In Color”, more than any fictional film made then or now, is raw and real. Look closely and you’ll see what children of the 30’s and 40’s saw. Look closer and you might even see the ghosts who gave us life before they died.
© 2008 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/20/08
They Filmed The War In Color
France - 2000