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Oscar Preview: ‘1917’


by Stephen Becker 23 Jan 2020

The World War I story “1917” is up for 10 Academy Awards, including nominations for director Sam Mendes and for best picture. In this week’s Art&Seek Spotlight, we continue our Oscars preview series by talking with Geoffrey Wawro – director of UNT’s Military History Center – about how “1917” captures the realities of trench warfare. Wawro writes about the American contribution to winning the war in his book “Sons of Freedom: The Forgotten American Soldiers Who Defeated Germany in World War I.” Be sure to check out our previous Oscar conversation with a Dallas family law attorney about “Marriage Story.”

Geoffrey Wawro on …

… the realities of life in the trenches:

“On the Allied side, the trenches are built on low ground, because when the Germans withdrew after the Battle of Marne in 1914 they occupied the high ground. So you’ll notice that the German trenches are very well-designed, dry, pretty comfortable. Whereas the Allied trenches – the British trenches in particular – are just low-lying, wet, muddy swamps.”

… how the film was shot to look like one take:

“I thought it was brilliant. When you think about how we imagine World War I, it’s so often just this interminable slog where it takes weeks, months, years to advance even a mile on the Western front because of the density of the fortifications. And so in this one-shot technique, you get this sense of drama and urgency and constant dynamism and movement that really pulls you along.

… on what he looks for in a war movie as a historian:

… “The first thing I look at is the hair. If the hair looks shampooed and combed and fresh, it’s not accurate. These guys didn’t see a bottle of shampoo for four years.”

 

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