Mumbai Memoir 78- Experiencing ‘Dunkirk’ in Mumbai!
Watching a good film has always been a joy for me. I see films not just for entertainment sake but I also study them as a part of my interest in filmmaking. The trailer of a recently released film named ‘Dunkirk’ generated curiosity in me to check the movie at an IMAX theatre around. Here’s the movie trailer for you to check: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-eMt3SrfFU What intrigued me about the trailer was that the movie is a Christopher Nolan written & directed film, the music of the film is given by Hans Zimmer, the central characters of the film are Oscar Award winners and above all the film belongs to the ‘period film’ genre.
I am a huge fan of the ‘period film’ genre, particularly because of my love for History. As a budding novelist, in 2003, I thought of writing a historical novel, but finding a topic was a huge struggle. I kept wondering about the historical premise of my story but no topic touched my heart then. Finally, I thought of systematically studying History by taking up an academic course and got myself enrolled in an M.A in History course at the University of Mumbai. Within 2 years I got enough perspectives on understanding the patterns in History and how just one right or wrong action by a person or country can construct or destroy the order of civil society for generations to come. Also, I was happy that by the end of 2005 I zeroed out on the backdrop of my period novel, which I have been working on till date. The story that I am working on is that of a Maratha princess who is living in colonial India of the mid 17th century and how her destiny merges with the colourful life of a French colony, where she discovers her identity and also finds the love and purpose of her life.
Thus period stories always attract the story teller in me and therefore I made it a point that ‘Dunkirk’ was a film not to be missed. I am glad I saw the movie in a theatre having IMAX technology facility. The film’s backdrop is the Second World War and how the British and the French soldiers struggled to be rescued from German attack which by 1940 had reached the shores of the French port named Dunkirk. This evacuation mission to rescue as many British and Allied forces, was named Operation Dynamo and is one of the turning point of the Second World War which went in favour of the Allied forces. Winston Churchill wanted the British army back to English shores rather than them being taken as prisoners of war or being killed by the enemy.
In spite of the continuous destruction of 177 aircrafts and 200 ships, which were destroyed by the German Airforce- Luftwaffe, the Allied rescue mission continued in the dark hours of night.
For this the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the 800 ‘Little Ships’ (the fishing boats and pleasure boats owned by civilians) teamed together and managed to miraculously rescue more than 50,000 British troops and approximately more than 30,000 French and Belgium troops, off the Dunkirk port!! Churchill’s Parliament speech after Dunkirk evacuation is worth hearing. Here’s its link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Okt_YrKPdw
All this action of the Second World War has been beautifully conveyed by Christopher Nolan in the film Dunkirk. The best part is that most of the action scenes are actually shot on location and very little is VFX effect based technology is used. The film crew had actually gone on location and has re-created the action that depicts the 1940 period drama that unfolded at Dunkirk.
Hans Zimmer has done justice with the music and the background score is amazing where accurate tension building loops have been used to match the visual action that is shown in air, waters and on land.
Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard have played their roles well and have created the harmony required to convey the story through their acting skills.
The cinematography skills of Hoyte van Hoytema is worth acknowledging. The camera angle and the skill of capturing the period mood has been best delivered through the lens. The best scenes that I personally loved were the ‘dogfighting’ of the German and British planes over the English Chanel, which were shot from the fighter pilot’s cockpit. It felt like as if I am the pilot and I was shooting the German aircrafts from the Royal Airforce aircrafts! I personally love the skies and wish to fly an airplane atleast once in my life time. It’s a crazy dream that I have been nurturing since my teenage, which may seem impossible but I will pursue it sincerely if I get the opportunity. Though I have experienced a helicopter ‘joy ride’ and have got a first-hand aerial view of what it feels when one sit in an air-borne vehicle, but soon would wish to learn and take controls of flying. Here’s the video link of my amateur camera work and the experience of flying over Niagara falls in 2010, capturing aerial view of the border of U.S and Canada: https://youtu.be/W2WzpAsCL6c Anyways, but as of now, Christopher Nolan’s film gave me a virtual tour of the skies with almost a real feel of how it looks and feels from inside the cockpit of a speeding Spitfire (popular fighter aircraft of the Royal Airforce of Great Britain)
Lastly about few scenes and dialogues from the film that touched my heart. The scene shot in the pleasure boat where the rescued military soldier tells the captain to head to England, which is their home, rather than Dunkirk- is the most touching. The Captain, who is a civilian, refuses to turn back and asserts the solider that ‘if the soldiers are not rescued, soon there will be ‘No Home to return’! This dialogue gave me goose bumps as I reflected on the deep meaning of the dialogue. Also it’s a civilian who is shown reminding a soldier the facts! Another scene that speaks volumes about Christopher Nolan’s writing is when the British soldiers return home and are welcomed by the civilians at the train station. Most of the soldiers are feeling embarrassed to have returned back without victory, rather they had to be helplessly rescued. One soldier asks an old volunteer ‘what have I done to deserve this applaud?’ the old man simply says, ‘You are Alive’!!! That dialogue has lateral meaning of ‘Hope’ and that if one is rescued alive then we can fight back! I could connect this with life. The fact that we are alive and healthy we can fight back our adversities and thus bounce back. I believe, there is much to be thankful for in life rather than feel dejected of our losses and spiral down more into melancholy. Seeing the film Dunkirk was just not an audio-visual treat for me but it offered something more, that had spiritual value, to carry on with the ups and downs of life in Mumbai.
Photo courtesy: Free Internet Download and Shraddha. C. Sankulkar