Dramdocumentary based on letters and journals, many of which have never been published before, this tells the story of 1914-18 solely through the eyes of those who lived through it. ... See full summary »
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Eva-Marie Becker ...  Elfriede Kuhr 3 episodes, 2014
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Dramdocumentary based on letters and journals, many of which have never been published before, this tells the story of 1914-18 solely through the eyes of those who lived through it. Bringing together 25 broadcasters from around the world, this is television's global event for the centennial of World War I.In 1914, most people's knowledge of war comes from schoolbooks and newspapers. But when the heir to the Austrian throne is killed in Sarajevo, the system of alliances runs its inevitable course. Featuring the stories of a Scottish auxiliary nurse who accompanies the British army to Belgium as a matter of national Honor, a young Cossack girl who follows her father into battle, a German mother who endures the untimely death of her only son, a French schoolboy who witnesses his country under occupation, a German schoolgirl who is forbidden to use French words in class, and an English journalist whose age is held against him. Their diaries focus on what archive and historical analysis ... Written by AnonymousB

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August 2014 (UK) See more »

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LOOKSfilm See more »
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Unparalleled drama
30 May 2015 | by donb-519-335075See all my reviews

The Great War created misery and devastation on a scale unprecedented in the world up to that time. August 1914 to November 1918 demonstrated the shear futility of war while displaying the callousness and horror that mankind was able to thrust on itself. We are observing the second year of the 100th anniversary of the Great War with numerous books, documentaries and films. I suspect that not many will pay a lot of attention to the observance of this world changing event.

But we should.

I have been captivated with the Great War since I purchased a book entitled The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century. This was a book I picked up in Montreal in October 2005 as I attended an IAQG meeting. It is a companion to the PBS series of the same name. The focus of the book was the effect the war had on subsequent history. It was interesting as it gave extensive coverage to the poets and artists of the time - especially those who served in the British army - Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, for example. This book and the PBS series sparked my interest.

Since then I have devoted a considerable part of my life and my library to the Great War. My fascination with it only grows.

So, it was with a great deal of anticipation that I started the Netflix streaming series called 14 Diaries of the Great War.

I have seen numerous movies and documentaries about the Great War, but none as well presented, poignant or hard hitting as this series. Produced by the BBC and released in connection with the 100th anniversary of the start of the war, this series presents the thoughts, beliefs and experiences of 14 people who were caught up in the maelstrom which was the Great War. The people who are featured in the series (authors of the diaries) are listed in the wikipedia description of the series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14_- _Diaries_of_the_Great_War.

The artistic approach to the series is the best I have seen. Supporting the diary accounts with live actors and archival footage of war and domestic scenes is riveting. The transition from color to black and white footage gives a sense of accuracy and immediacy to the stories being described in the diaries.

These diaries are presented in the context of the overall strategic situation of the war during the time covered - with clear animation. These three factors - live actors living out the diary entries; archival footage supporting the story; and the animation combine to make this the most effective depiction of the horrors of war on people I have seen.

The focus of this series is people. The universality of the war experience on soldiers, nurses, civilians, prisoner-of-war, and children is demonstrated by the series. It is clear that all the people of the world whose countries were directly involved in the war suffered the same misery: the death of loved ones and, almost worse, the inability to bury them; hunger, starvation, lack of the fundamentals of life - food, water, shelter, proper medical treatment, etc. This is very dramatically presented as the story rapidly presents short excerpts from the diaries of French, German, Austria, Turkish, British, Australian etc. diarists.

The diaries of the soldiers on all sides suffered from the same privations, especially in the trenches. They were mislead by pompous, uninformed (and uncaring) generals, who stuck with obviously outmoded tactics (incessant bombardments of the enemy lines - a week long bombardment before the Somme); over the top, suicidal charges which were easily dispensed by scores of machine guns; antiquated and ill conceived philosophies about how to keep the soldiers and civilians in support of the war - and so on.

Four of the first five episodes cover ground which is familiar to those who have studied the Great War: causes of the conflict; opening battles; misdirected tactics, etc. In spite of the familiarity of the subject, the presentation is captivating. Episode 4, in my opinion gazed too long on the sexual aspects of the war - young men away from home, the emerging sexual revolution among women. etc. The main point was made early, then repeated many times during the episode. That is my only serious criticism of the series, having watched six of the eight episodes.

Episode 6 "The Home Front" was particularly devastating as it portrayed the horrors thrust on the civilian population. If you do not have a "hard crust," do not watch this episode. It is almost more than I could bear. The most poignant story in this episode was the story of Elfriede Kuhr - a young German girl - a victim of the propaganda and super nationalism of the early days of the war. As a totally committed school girl, she strips her home when food and metal is needed to support the German war effort. She volunteers in a children's hospital - watching over dozens of malnourished babies by herself the entire evening. Her failed suicide attempt is emblematic of the despair and homelessness of people caught up in this catastrophe. The actress, Elise Monse, is brilliant.

At the beginning of this review I said that everyone should pay attention to this world changing event. There is no better way to do that than to watch this hard hitting series. You will not look at war the same.


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