18 February 2010

Paths of Glory

Stanley Kubrick, 1957

Beyond the powerful critique of the military-industrial complex, I was fascinated by how masculinity is portrayed in the film. The soldiers are constantly posturing, competing to be the most noble, deserving of the most respect, strongest, etc., all qualities that can be summed up as attributes of traditional masculinity. Soldiers who are not behaving correctly are explicitly infantilized or feminized. A soldier who is being exhorted to die bravely is told to think about how he wants his wife and child to remember him ... the obvious options being a coward (unmanly) or a Man.

And finally, there's the scene at the end in the bar, the only time that we actually see a German in the entire film. And she's a woman. The men behave like animals, another expression of "masculinity," but eventually, struck by her fear and tears, they feel a kinship with her. Many cry themselves. And suddenly their commanding officer, who had postured as much as any other character, assisted by dramatic low-angle close-ups, sees redemption and hope for humanity in his soldiers' identification with a German woman.

Fascinating stuff.

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