Dunkirk: a reminder

Living memories of the past always fade, but we must never forget them. For example, Dunkirk in World War II was moment of sheer panic at the beginning of a period of terror. Christopher Nolan’s film based upon this moment is a sensational, stark reminder for us, and future generations, that even in a time of sheer adversity humanity prevailed. Today I saw Dunkirk in the BFI IMAX and today I was reminded to be grateful. I find war films incredibly hard to watch, but I feel it is my duty to see them. The ability of experiencing what people have, and still have to experience, without the risk of actually being there, is not something we should avoid. To me Dunkirk’s message was that even when all lives seem lost, people banned together and are capable of incredible things.

As I’m sure many people know, at the end of May 1940 the British and French troops were surrounded at Dunkirk beaches and harbour in France, with their only chance of survival being to cross the channel. Unfortunately, this was not an easy feat. There was a limited supply of navy ships to bring the troops home and a limited amount of planes protecting them on the beaches. So, a call was put out across the UK for civilian ships to be used for the excavation of soldiers at Dunkirk, these were known as ‘little ships’. The little ships were manned by the navy, but also by their civilian owners. Most boats, soldiers and civilians returned, but as with all war some did not.

Dunkirk the film is an interconnected tale, directed to perfection and acted so profoundly. I was on the edge of my seat, tense throughout the whole experience, because it truly was an experience. Normally sitting four rows from the front of the screen is a bad thing, but I felt so close to the action. The theatre was shaking with the sounds of bombs and the Hams Zimmer’s score guided you through the activity. For a moment in time I was transported to that beach, on those waves and in the sky. Yet it is not only the poignancy of the film that has moved me, but the notion that many of us today will thankfully never undergo a real life situation like it. However, perhaps the thing that has struck me the most about the film is the realisation that after the lucky soldiers who survived the excavation of Dunkirk returned to the UK for leave and rest, they were simply shipped off again. These men and women (for we must not forget the nurses), were delivered for service in another distance country, ready once again to become cannon fodder. What more, even when the war ended politically, it never ended in the mind, body and soul for many, as they experienced shell shock. This is now defined as post traumatic stress disorder and still prevails for some soldiers today, bringing the horror of war home.

Yet I am not disregarding the terrorist events or unnecessary loss of life that continues to happen across the country today. I have simply been reminded once again that life is relatively easy. Yes, most of my generation cannot afford to buy a house, or have job security and are still living with their parents, but what we have is so much more than that. Many of our family, friends and partners are not in war zones. We have access to any food we can dream of. We can leave the lights on at night, with the curtains open, without the fear of bombs. We have so many things and rights we take for granted and we often need to be reminded of this. Furthermore, as a pacifist I condemn war, but I am not naive. I understand that many inventions we used today were initially created to destroy enemies, to protect troops during battle and to try and save them after. I simply urge you to appreciate life and research into the background of wars. In my opinion, seeing the film Dunkirk is a powerful starting point for a journey into the historical and present day experiences of those at war.

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