Let’s see How Great WW2 Stories lead to another Great Story.
In the Author Summary of my book, I spoke about my father’s contribution behind my interest in war movies. However, 95 percent of those war stories that I consumed in my youth was from a western perspective. But I was always the person to take the other side of a conversation, playing the role of the underdog. I’ve always felt the need to see things from the other side before accepting the seemingly objective reality. This was what lead me to do some research on the Nazis. I needed to know more about the average life of those citizens who were a part of a nation that ultimately scarred the magnanimity of mankind in history. The psychology behind what went on in the minds of those who were first neutral prickled me. The battles that thronged their minds when they first heard the preaching of their unconventional leader? And at what point in their cognizance would they follow him or oppose him? Did they oppose him? That last question was what I rarely heard of, the opposition from inside a then nation of wolves. I haven’t checked, but I never saw a film about german opposition against their leader. But for those that conceded, where along that line did acceptance or brainwashing became a reality? If they existed I wanted to know the tales of those who tarried with the psychological conundrum of choosing the world over their people. This was when I learned about the white rose, A group formed by a former member of the Hitler Youths program “Hans Scholls”. It is said that the Hitler youths HJ, was a program put in place to brainwash the young generation of the country. However, Hans and others were not as accepting of a lifestyle they felt was inhumane and forced upon them. Nonetheless, the founding members of the white rose were later executed by their own countrymen. This was an eye-opener for me, because it meant that war was not only outside the walls of Germany, but it was inside the country, Moreover, it was inside the minds of an unconvinced, good-natured people. I needed to tell this story from a character that I could see through, and that was how Muller was born.
I mentioned in the bio of my book that my father was the main reason for my interest in a War Historical fiction, and this was the case. He was the one that drilled me involuntarily as I found myself sitting beside him to watch these tear-jerking, eye-opening films. So I want to take the time to explore a list of films that I deem my top ten from those emotionally thrilling days. My top ten war shows that influenced and contributed to how I wrote a few scenes in parts of my Book, I Am Not A Soldier.
Image taken from IMDb
- Band of Brothers
The 2001 American war miniseries Band of Brothers has influenced my hands as an author more than any other war film on this list. There has been an abundance of lessons, emotions, captivation, and the dawning of manhood culminating in this unprecedented HBO series. The Mini-series had 10 episodes that focused on Easy Company, a non-fictional group of soldiers who had their stories told from their training camp in Georgia to the siege of Bastogne, until the war ended. The film was directed by Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg though, and its origin was from the non-fictional book written by Stephen E. Ambrose of the same name. This series contributed to many areas of the writing style I chose for my book, but I can’t give Bands of Brothers all of the credit So I Will select a few areas that I saw as influential. Now without giving away too many spoilers, after splurging hours of my teenage life on this series, I learned from this film how unfair life could be, how life had favorites but death didn’t care for your past. I respected how the series would show men who we thought would live out to see the war at the end (Hoping it would be the generic happy war-fictional-story), cut down and forgotten about in an instant. No funerals, no time to mourne, no brief pause, just onto the next one. I recalled episode 6 in Bastogne where Private Julian stepped out behind a covering before the enemy shot him. Julian’s friends wanted to help him but were helpless because of the heavy fire. At that moment, they had to abandon the body of a friend, because the war did not sanction a proper goodbye. As a teenager at the time, this toughened me a little and made me more prepared for adulthood. This was something I felt like my book also needed to reflect. From the miniseries, the famous training camp days was something I also loved. I appreciated that the series took the time to show us the intricacies of the preparation before the war, that soldiers did not just materialize. Often times we would see in a war movie, the signup and then the battle run—skipping the all-important preparation. I recall the scenes with Sobel pushing struggling men in white T-shirts up and down the ridged hill, until they evolved into capable soldiers in uniforms. The back story of Bands of brothers was a part of the reason for its strong success. Something that stuck with me.
Image taken From Secondsightfilms
2. Audie Murphy
Unlike the very tall protagonist in my book, the five-foot baby faced hero Audie Murphy stars in the next movie that influenced my writing niche. To Hell and Back, The film released in 1955 was about the life of the most decorated hero in American History. Audi Murphy was able to cap all accolades that could be given to a soldier back then. This film was directed by Jesse Hibbs and starred by the very person who was being reflected on screen, Audie himself. It was a strange reality to see the man who lived the horrors of the war re-enact them on screen. This was one of the reasons why this film became so popular. One of the features I admired about the film was the back story of Audie, who he was before the war. I liked the developing tale of a character before unveiling the action. I recall in the movie when Audie’s mother was having a hard time and she looked at Audie and said that he was the new head of the house, due to his father’s absence. To me, that was a point of upheaval, development. There were many nodes of heroic deeds in Audie’s career as a soldier. One particular one that stood out for me was when he lost his friend. This changed the character that we came to know and love in the show, but not in a bad way. Development, again we saw growth and change to adapt to a varying reality. After Audie’s friend had died, he went on a rampage and slaughtered Nazi’s who were hidden in Dug-outs with Machine guns. At the end of the war, Audie had a kill count of 240 German soldiers!
Image taken from Amazon
3. We Were Soldiers
We Were Soldiers a famous war tale filmed in 2002, directed by Randall Wallace and starring Mel Gibson. Though not a WW2 story, there was one thing that got me with this movie, its Title. The name of my book (I Am Not A Soldier) jumped at me when I remembered this movie. The title We Were Soldiers, branding men who had to become an immovable force for a cause they would sometimes forget—mustering inhumane states of mind to weather gruesome experiences. And as time past they were no longer their titles, whether through death or returning home, who they were, and what they did had come to a halt. The profundity of that title has always grabbed me. And so, though less philosophical, I Am Not A Soldier was born— a man who did not want to fight, moving in a role that defined him, his mental state, and his destiny.
4. Image taken from IMDb
Saving Private Ryan
Now there are a few films on this list that manipulated how I envisioned the technicals of war scenes. Outside of the fillers and the back-stories, there would be a time when nothing but gunshots and explosions told the story for us. One of the films that helped to shape epic battle scenes in my book, was saving private Ryan. The 1998 American war film directed by Steven Spielberg, had many unmatched, realistic portrayals of the unprecedented war. However, the last stand in the town Ramelle where they were defending the bridge from the Nazis. The Suspense before Gunfire, the realism of Gore, the scene by Private Jackson sharp skilfully shooting from a tower before a panzer tank kills him—no funeral and no mourning for a popular face. War is unforgiving and this movie reminded me of that as I dove into the emotion of I Am Not A Soldier.
Image taken from Rhys Tranter
5. Thin Red Line
Another film that painted a picture of the abysses of battle, was a Thin Red Line, directed by Terrence Malick. Outside of the Urban feels that some parts of Saving Private Ryan offered, the 1988 epic American war film took place amongst shrubs, hills, open savannahs, and forested areas. There were a few things that drew me in. A lesson my book took from this film was that the battle was not just in the open fields, it was also in the minds of the soldiers. The constant reflections and colorful daydreams that leaked from the soldiers sub-conscious as a by-product of near insanity. Then there was the sporadic reluctancy, fear, and uncertainty on a few soldier’s faces—giving way to a weakness that fought against their trained nature to be ruthless. An example is the look on 1st sergeant Edward when Tella was dying and he knew that there was nothing he could do to save him. Another memorable scene for me was the death of the supposed popular figure, Private Witt (No one is too much of a protagonist to not die in war). Standing amid a field, encircled by Japanese soldiers, Witt knew that the faith his friends had met was upon him. After what felt like a minute long pause on-screen, one could only imagine what was going through his mind at that time. Nonetheless, Witt decided to die a soldier by lifting his gun in the face of adversity, following a cut to another daydream on his last moments alive. For me, The movie Thin Redline was also about the battle that was fought in the minds of unedged soldiers.
Image taken from IMDb
It is worth noting that a few of the daydreams that took place in a Thin Redline were romantic ones, specifically the one where Private Bell found himself frozen on top of a hill, lost midway an enchanting memory and/or daydream of his wife Aletheia. This next film shared more of that, the woman behind the soldier, Pearl Harbor. So spoiler Alert, unfortunately, there are no seas in my book, but there certainly are the waves of a woman’s push and pull, influencing a soldier’s ability to function. Directed by Michael Bay, the 2001 American war romance film gave rise to the popular figures of “Evelyn and Danny”. Danny with his smooth skills took Evelyn to the air in his fighter jet and since then had her knotted in his arms. From my experience, war feels incomplete without the feminine fuel of a woman behind her soldier. The heartbreaking scene where Rafe said these words to Evelyn who had left him, “Loving you kept me alive”, sums up the underrate influence of a woman behind a war tale.
Image taken from Wearemoviegeeks
This next film was a pundit when it came to Tank action. I inherited some of the imagery, description, and tank fighting scenes from this film. However, the clip that stood out for me packed more blows than any tanks filmed in the movie—A scene captivated by the fairer sex, a damsel again. A common feature of war movies is a soldier finding love at war, a brief pause amidst the monstrosity. I’ve always admired a war film’s ability to find solace, to hit the brakes on the action, and give us something softer—only for a while before flooring the gas again. Norman, the gentle soldier among a group of ruffians was gifted an oasis in the ruins of Germany. The 2014 American war film directed by David Ayer, shot a scene in a quiet town in Germany, where Norman and Wardaddy (Brad Pit) entered a house with two females. Emma the teenage girl of the two ladies immediately bonded with Norman when he sat at the piano to play a song. It was then the suspense was choreographed seamlessly. The air reeked of youthful hormones begging for the unexplored-days of the hidden pleasures of romance and sex. An alert Wardaddy immediately saw a connection and forced Norman to make a move. Though it was arguable that Emma may not have been in full consent initially, she not being able to speak English read in between the lines, and pulled an unwilling Norman into the bedroom. After discovering each other’s body, Norman is pulled from the hands of the now inseparable Emma and dragged outside by one of his colleagues. Everyone watching the movie at this point hoped for the day they would meet again. One could only imagine the plethora of smiles that littered the theatre at that time. But what happened next was the definition of war, and it dug the foundation for the brilliant love-hate emotions the film bespelled its viewers with. Shots from a heavy Artillery scattered the town shortly after Norman exited the house, leaving a trashed house and a lifeless Emma. The deep connection, the fiery romance, and the somewhat spiritual nexus between two strangers were short-lived. The bereaved Norman attacked the rubble, tugging on the corpse of Emma before his colleague violently grabbed him from her lifeless body and said, “It’s Called war! You feel it?” One of my favorite war scenes of all time.
Image taken from IMDb
8. Red Tails
The 2012 American war film directed by Anthony Hemingway Red Tails, was the best airplane action picture I have ever seen. No doubt there were sections of my book that my overactive imagination borrowed from the powerful scenes shot in this film. This movie was dedicated to the struggle and bravery of African American Fighter Jet Pilots during World War 2. The characters were fictional but they represented a real group of people that had similar struggles. A scene that I particularly enjoyed was the German Airbase attack. Swooping down from the big blue, the American Fighter Jets splashed the German Airbase with bullets. With carefully calculated aims, they were able to take out the German’s powerful aircraft while dodging rapid Machine gunfire, and thick smokes of flaks that showered the sky. I admired the skills and the unmatched imageries that the film was able to portray. There was nothing like it in a WW2 picture. It was the best of its kind for me.
Image taken from G.Blume
Oh wow! This next film features a main character who possibly best mirrors the protagonist in my book. Hacksaw Ridge, The 2016 biographical film was the re-telling of a soldier, A war hero that never once fired a bullet. This movie was about the fight between one man’s subjective ideology and the entire war. It was a film that featured the man that actually did it—a man that was able to use kindness to change a piece of the world. Desmond Doss was a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, who fought to keep his beliefs through the entire war. He was a medic and only believed in saving people’s lives. This was lead him to contest the army in court that he should never have to hold a gun. The entire Army thought he was crazy, but he won this right and entered enemy lines without any firearm. The popular scene that stood out for me was that which got him his Medal of Honor. Desmond was able to rescue 75 Soldiers who were supposed to have lost there lives on the deadly hills of Hacksaw Ridge. His unprecedented incompatible beliefs not only survived the war but helped to save the lives of others that opposed him. A true story that proves that we are to stand for what is right even when the entire world thinks we are wrong.
Image taken from IMDb
The 1970 American war film (Kelly’s Heros) was probably the least influential picture of how I wrote my book. However, I had to put it on the list because it was a different kind of war film. It didn’t just feature the feats and pitfalls of world war 2. But it was also a comic. I found it interesting how they were able to add humor to the most humorless point in history and still made a good impact. The film featured a group of soldiers including Clint Eastwood as “Kelly” and Donald Sutherland as “Oddball”. This group of men and others went AWOL (deserted) to rob a bank that belonged to the Enemy. There were countless scenes that had a strange but unique merger of humor and suspense. Most of which encompassed the co-host Oddball. One particular scene I recall was the end of the film when this group of American soldiers stepped from behind walls from which they hid and stood bravely in suspense before a German Tiger tank. The German soldier ends up struggling to get the snout of his tank in the direction of the marching American soldiers and has to eventually concede to them. Before the film ends, the Nazi Soldier and the Americans had somehow comedically become comrades with one main aim. To collect the gold from the bank. If I’ve ever mentioned some kind of humor in my book, I could credit it to this Movie.