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A chronicle of events that led to the British involvement in the Crimean War against Russia and which led to the siege of Sevastopol and the fierce Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854 which climaxed with the heroic, but near-disastrous cavalry charge made by the British Light Brigade against a Russian artillery battery in a small valley which resulted in the near-destruction of the brigade due to error of judgment and rash planning on part by the inept British commanders. Written by
I do find it fascinating to come across obscure, almost forgotten films like this with familiar faces and famous actors in it. It was made ca. 1968, and in the true spirit of '68, it is strongly anti-war, anti-military, and anti-establishment, even though it is set in the Victorian era, the height of the Romantic age, when Military valor was largely celebrated. Military life is here portrayed in terms of ranks of men being bullied and brutalized by each successive rank above them, with the biggest, meanest and stupidest ones at the top.
I found it quite interesting to see the famous charge, celebrated in the romantic verses of Tennyson, portrayed in such a matter-of-fact manner as a series of tactical blunders due to bad communication and incompatible personalities among the commanders. These events were supposedly well-researched, and though I am not informed on the subject, I found this version of events very credible. Even with the high level of weapons and communications technology we have today, this sort of thing still happens. It must have been very common in centuries past.
To me, the dialog of this film and its delivery by the actors is its most remarkable feature. Seeing films that depict distant eras, I've often thought that these eras must have not just looked different from what we are used to, but sounded very different as well. If we were suddenly dropped into Victorian England, we wouldn't always understand what was being said or inferred to us. Words, phrases, gestures, facial expressions or body language that would have obvious meaning in that time and place would be strange to us. The language and syntax would, of course, be different, but so would the rhythm, pace, expressive color and accenting of the way people spoke. `Charge of the Light Brigade' does a remarkable job of not just looking, but sounding like a distant place and time. For a viewer who is not educated in antique British expressions and military jargon, as I am not, it makes watching this film a bit challenging, but it's like spending 130 minutes in the Victorian age as a so-called `fly-on-the-wall,' as the British put it. There was more than one line spoken after which I thought `say what?' But that's OK. It doesn't kill you, just encourages you to think a bit. This aspect of the film looks to be well-researched as well, a superb example of a somewhat talky script in which great care is taken with the language and its use by the actors. The script doesn't serve the purpose of an exposition device for the dumbest members of the audience, a very common vice in films, particularly big-money films engineered to alienate as few people as possible. It's an integral part of a design to recreate an unfamiliar time and place, and as such, a bit uncompromising.
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