Writing On Evil Things

This past week, I have happened to watch two movies, one on the Holocaust in World War II, and one of World War I and all its good and bad. The first was the award-winning movie, Life Is Beautiful, an Italian movie with English subtitles. The second is a documentary that very few people my age are likely to have seen, They Shall Not Grow Old.

It has been a week since I’ve seen Life Is Beautiful, yet I wish I could hopefully see it again soon. For a movie set during World War II in Italy, and then in Germany, and for a movie involving the Holocaust and concentration camps, it hardly fixes your gaze at all on the matter, yet at the same time, does not avoid it at all. The main character, Guido Orefice, starrs as the ignorant goof in the beginning. Yet when trouble and danger come (the war and the camp), his goofiness which seemed so humorous and clumsy before now becomes just as humorous, as well as resourceful. You can hardly say the movie is about the Holocaust–rather, it is really about the perspective that Guido gave to his wife and son in the troubled times: Life is beautiful. Go watch that movie if you haven’t already!

What could be interesting about a World War I documentary made up entirely of video clips from the Imperial War Museum, you wonder? Well first of all, it’s a movie entirely made up of video clips from the Imperial War Museum. It’s 2019, and we have actual footage of 100 years ago. That is amazing in and of itself. Anyhow, as it records the Great War, it was rated-R. Even so, it was the best rated-R stuff I’ve ever seen. (The only other movie I remember seeing that’s rated-R is Pan’s Labyrinth, another inspiring movie which I didn’t watch 15 minutes of because of the horror gore.)

They Shall Not Grow Old showed a lot of carnage, wounds, and incredible explosions. Because I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in D.C., the carnage was not altogether as bad to look at as the images and video at that museum. One of the bodies shown is even the description of something in my own book, Fish Out of Water. (You’d be surprised how gory that book can get at moments.) The wounds of the wounded were the only gory parts I had to avert my eyes from sometimes. At the same time, it’s pretty amazing how terrible wounds can actually be recovered from. Overall, what made the gruesomeness and horror of the war bearable through the entire film was that it wasn’t meant to glory in the horror. It was not horror for pleasure in twisted horror (which I think is different from the old horror, like Edgar Allen Poe.) It was bearable because it faithfully recorded the story arc of real men’s experiences, bringing the viewer to hopefully look on the carnage with appropriate horror.

There’s nothing wrong, obviously, with talking about evil things in art. This world is rife with evilness, and not one person is entirely free from its nature. Yet, it’s the best stories that take that evil and show how goodness triumphed in the end.