If you have seen the 1997 film Border, then you will surely be reminded about the “Sandese aate hai” song which became immortalized in the post war nationalist sentiment, as the movie was also released at quite an opportune moment, when India was rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the war, with the ongoing nuclear tests and the birth of the space programme. But war never was and never will be a concept for romanticism and glorification of any single race or nationality. Bringing this very point to the fore in the most poignant manner, is the anti-war genre, replete with each and every nuance that human violence has contained within it. Let’s explore this rich and vast library, with seven beautiful anti-war movies.
- Paths of Glory (1957)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Here, Kirk Douglas plays the idealistic military officer in the French army during World War l. Three men from the company are executed for refusing to carry out a poorly planned attack on a German position, and it is then that the idealistic Colonel Dax (Douglas) decides to take things in his own hands. As all Kubrick movies, this one is dense with ideas and imagery about the futility of war.
- Apocalypse Now (1979)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
One of Coppola’s masterpieces, the film seems like one long drunkard’s dream. As a certain Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent out on a secret mission in the Vietnam War down a river to kill a renegade and insane Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), he encounters drugs stashed in a military boat, violence as casually carried out as an everyday chore and the madness and delirium of war, the ultimate zenith of which he sees in the Colonel’s charismatic eyes. Slow and magnificent and one of the most expensive movies ever made.
- Haider (2015)
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
One of the most ambitious films of recent times, this one is a Shakespearean drama (Hamlet), set in the beautiful and fragile Kashmir valley during the peak of the militant incursion in the 90s. Tragedy and despair combined with beauty abound in every single frame as the movie became a first for portraying the plight of the Kashmiris, as being caught between the devil and the sea, rather than in the usual nationalistic light.
- Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick again. Seems like the guy was hooked onto the anti war genre. This time he portrays the Vietnam War, and three soldiers, one of whom in a fit of madness, kills the drill sergeant, during the marine training and then kills himself. The other two are then deployed to Vietnam, and must come face to face with death, and the suppression of the truth, that is intrinsic to every war.
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Director: Steven Spielberg
This is one obvious contender for this list, and is pretty difficult to miss. Shot in a grainy picture format, this follows a company of soldiers in WW2, who must retrieve a certain private deep in Nazi-occupied France, as he is the last surviving member of a family of war martyrs. This is one such movie that will in all its beauty, brutality and a chilling portrayal of battle sequences, will haunt even the most hardened cinema goer.
Director: Paweł Pawlikowski
This one would be a more offbeat selection for an anti war movie list. Set in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the movie follows a young nun who is to take her vows, who must visit her aunt and travel to the graves of her family, who were killed during the massacre of the Jews. Stark and minimalist, the movie subtly captures the nuances of the war, and the impact it carries on the lives of those who survive.
- Ivan’s Childhood(1962)
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Dreamlike sequences and beautiful, extremely long takes filled with deep symbolism and allegory are the hallmarks of Tarkovsky’s craft, and this is what he does in this brilliantly crafted art film. Tarkovsky debut contains a emotionally wrought and heart rendering portrayal of the life of a young boy Ivan, as he traverses the war torn Soviet landscape.