“Paths of Glory” by Stanley Kubrick (1957)

I haven’t seen as many movies as I would like. In fact, I own several movies on DVD that I just haven’t got around to watching yet. On the rare occasion that I find myself with a free evening and no objections (the movies I often want to watch aren’t universally appreciated, for some reason), sometimes I’ll sit down and actually watch one of the many many movies that I haven’t yet had the chance to.

One of the few Stanley Kubrick movies that I hadn’t yet seen, Paths of Glory sat in shrink-wrap for a few years before the opportunity presented itself tonight to be watched. And I should have watched it earlier, of course. Kubrick is known for the tightness of his movies (length and tightness needn’t be opposites), and this one is no exception. It’s interesting to reflect on these earlier pieces of his, where his style is still unmistakable but his infamous perfectionism isn’t quite as blatant.

This film is billed as “one of the greatest anti-war film ever”, and while that statement does sum it up quite neatly, there’s not enough context to describe what the film’s about. I guess the feeling of a war movie strongly echoes which war it’s covering. While more modern films such as Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now begin in some sort of reality and descend into situational insanity, Paths of Glory takes a tiny look at war in the trenches and focuses on the futility of the whole situation. Two groups of people facing each other with guns and nowhere to go just can’t be resolved from the inside. But trying to escape the situation isn’t going to work either. Not insane. Just frustrating waste.

One of my favourite experiences is when the credits roll and all you can do is sit in silence thinking about the movie. Too often reality intrudes when I do this, but it’s really a moment to be savoured. It’s not any one part of the film, like great cinematography or a well written script. It’s when the movie evokes feelings that resonate past when the film ends, and you wish everyone could just share in that moment.