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This is the French title and it's really a well-chosen one;it's on the fifth day of PEACE (WW2,13th May 1945) that the two unfortunate deserters were executed ;it is based on a true story and it's a brilliant Reductio Ad Absurdum of the absurdity of war and its rules.
Absurd is the keynote:although the Nazis are now prisoners of the allies in a former concentration camp ("Arbeit Macht Frei" on the gate),the German Officers ,still faithful to their Führer's Third Reich (which was to last a thousand years),still believing in their rites,want their men to be obedient ,disciplined ;their brainwashing is so convincing that the privates themselves ,although the war is over,do not ask themselves any questions (scenes of the noise they make): the military hierarchy knows that they despise deserters ,draft dodgers and they take advantage of it. Two deserters prisoners are court-martialled and the judges are themselves prisoners !
The (British) officer is taken over by events :what's the point of shooting two men when the war is over?but his general is a clairvoyant man :he knows that desertion is not a German problem ,it is something that jeopardizes their army ,and that two poor privates can set an example ;there are no more nations ,but one sacred institution ,the Army ,the duty,the military service :one should remember that when the movie was made in 1970,the draft was existing almost everywhere in Europa (except in the UK)and conscientious objection was still a taboo . Vietnam war had become very unpopular in America.
This shows how very topical Montaldo's movie was !And like Losey's "For king and country" ,Kubrik's "paths of glory" or Trumbo's " Johnny got his gun" ,it is still relevant today.
Too bad that this movie should be forgotten today !Only Morricone 's haunting wistful melody is known around the world and is included in almost all his compilations .It is not used very often though,the director preferring the musician's martial compositions .
NB:Montaldo's follow-up to " Gott Mit Uns" was also a mockery of a trial :the Sacco and Vanzetti affair (we are sure today that at least one of them was totally innocent);in this 1971 work, Morricone asked singer activist Joan Baez to write words to the songs from the movie and she used words taken from the letters of Vanzetti.
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