Sunday, July 15, 2007
Written by Fantasma el Rey & Fumo Verde
Days Of Glory adds a new chapter for many of us to the tale of World War II. It is centered on Arabs and French soldiers fighting for different reasons.
The basic plot of Days Of Glory is one we have seen before during many Sunday afternoons. Volunteers of an occupied territory (in this case North Africa) join the army to liberate their mother country (France) and fight against a greater evil (Nazi Germany). Our core group of heroes goes through the trials of being the new recruits and low men on the totem pole. They get their first taste of combat and face some sort of major battle or tragic loss (losing all but four men in a mine field) before the grand finale where they fight to the death to hold the position, down to the last man. All the while, the sergeant is a jerk who shows moments of feelings and heart for his troops.
What sets this film apart is its twist to this tale. Our heroes are Arabs, one of whom only has one hand, from Algeria and they fight with other “African Troops.” The prejudices they face are greater than merely being new recruits. They are seen as cannon fodder, for the most part, in the eyes of the regular French military leaders and soldiers. We are shown this in the first battle scene and can sense it throughout the film. The Arabs have to fight for respect and personnel liberties, proving that they can perform and lead just like anyone else. Fumo points out that its much like the American Civil War film Glory with its story of African-Americans former slaves and freemen seen as lesser soldiers because of who they are and the color of their skin.
At times the story of Days Of Glory comes across as too layered. Multiple layers are fine in most cases when there is three hours to fully explore certain elements, but here some elements are shown in a single scene and appear simply thrown in. We understand them, but agree that they add more questions. One example is a church scene with two of our main characters. Why they stumble into the church is unknown; perhaps to secure it? They resist looting the collection box while gazing at a mural of the crusades; they even make the comment of how much the Christian god has suffered. The point being that our boys have respect for other people’s myths like every other descent person of the world.
Example two: after the first battle, there is a scene where a German soldier is attaching our one-armed wonder. We see the sergeant save him but have no idea why or how he was there in the first place. The scene shows why the one-armed fellow loves the sergeant so much and becomes his lackey.
Bringing us to another question, why in the hell is a one-armed man in the army to begin with? He joined that way and it’s not like the army would overlook such a thing. He doesn’t get much crap for being a might handicapped, either. I think his fellow soldiers would have given him hell for it since it’s not like it adds to his ability as a warrior.
Then there are the unexplored origins of the sergeant. His past is reveled as his lackey finds a photo with “Mother” written on the back. Sarge’s mom is an Arab, making him a half-breed. He hides his past to gain rank in the French army, shades of Hitler himself, and when called on his past, Sarge gets violent and abusive towards his lackey.
No war film is complete without a story of lovers torn apart. One of the boys is with a French woman for one, yes one, night. They fall madly in love yet are kept apart by the war. The terrible army even goes as far as refusing to allow letters to pass between the two lamenting lovers, revealing that they are and capable of love.
Strong points of the film include the fine shots of the countryside. The director has a beautiful and creative way of opening some sequences by moving from black and white to color. As the Germans are beaten back and as the army advances the cloud of doom is being lifted from the land. The tale itself is a strong point and the acting is fine, but it’s the over all plot that could have been done better. The message is a simple one: in the end these soldiers fought and died for the greater good of mankind and wound up with nothing. The African soldiers even had their pensions stalled, and to most of the world they were forgotten as fighters in that war.
Included on the DVD is a short film titled “The Colonial Friend,” whose plot would have made a more memorable full-length film while telling the story of these unsung heroes. The way it stands now we have a good story rolled into an average WWII plot.