Friday, 20 May 2011

Soldiers and Saints

The other film which impressed me greatly was Saints and Soldiers and which begins with three soldiers escaping from the Malmedy Massacre where dropped USA parachutists were captured and then shot. They are joined by a fourth, an English pilot whose plane was shot down before he could return to base and report the disposition of the as yet undetected German advance. He persuades the three others to help in breaking through the German advance to warn the allies of the situation. The basic plot story provides the opportunity to explore aspects of the nature of combat for those involved on both sides. The key member of the quartet used to be a missionary working in Berlin which he says was the happiest time in his life. He speaks German and becomes essential in getting the group through the Germany lines. He is in an emotional state with hallucinations because returning fire he had entered what he believed was a building used by the enemy only to find that he had killed two women and six children. He is protected by the Sergeant and the third USA soldier who is a member of the medical corps. He is also helped by the kindness of a Belgium French speaking woman and her daughter who provides temporary shelter and food and who he then rescues from being raped by two German soldiers, one is killed and the other runs off.

Before this incident the English Pilot had set off in the freezing weather conditions to make an immediate attempt to reach allied lines while the others remained in the shelter overnight knowing that he faced certain death because of the cold. Fortunately he encounters the escaping German soldier who turns out to be the son of a household with whom he stayed when a missionary. Deacon allows the German soldier to leave in exchange for information how to get through to the allies and the location of a Jeep being used by the Germans with the bonnet covered in a German flag to protect it from friendly fire. Later the soldier does not give them away when they are going through a German encampment.

Because they forget to remove the German Flag they are nearly blown up by the allies but two of them are successful, the British Airman and the Medical corps soldier so the information is handed over. Deacon carried with a small book which we are never told what it is but the suggestion it is a Bible. Later after Deacon has sacrificed his life to help the others reach the allies, the man in the medical corps who has expressed a lack of belief in anything after death takes the book and seeing a wounded German officer in captivity provides the man with first aid. The Sergeant also dies in the service of the greater good. We also learn that Deacon originated from Snowflake a town founded and populated by those of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. This low budget film around $.75 million was made by a LDS company. The film was given a restricted rating because having established a relationship with each of the four characters two die a violent death which young people would find upsetting.

The need for reconciliation was the basis of the historical state visit on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Eire during four days of this week. It is said that Queen Elizabeth has wanted to make such a symbolic visit during her lifetime and asked about doing so soon after the Good Friday agreement was signed a decade and a half ago. However the conditions for making such a visit in safety were not established until recently when it was agreed that the devolved joint Northern Ireland government should take control of policing and Catholic were recruited to the police in numbers for the first time. There were a number of an important visual statements of reconciliations with on the first day the Queen visiting the memorial Garden in Dublin created for those who died in the fight to obtain independence from the British Crown. She also made a visit to the famous Croke Park Stadium built where the first Bloody Sunday massacre of 19 civilians by British forces took place 91 years ago. This had become a stadium for Gaelic Sports. Although the major stadium in Eire International sports such as football and rugby were not played there by British Teams until recently because of the issue of the British National Anthem, The anthem was played several times during the State visit.

The private lunch on the first day was attended by David Trimble one the architects of the Peace agreement on behalf of the Unionists. Sinn Fein declined an invitation but their leader Gerry Adams now a Member of the Irish Parliament who had argued that the time was not yet right for the visit appeared more conciliatory as the visit progressed, Certainly he would not have expected the extent to her majesty alluded to the past at the State dinner held on the second evening.

She commenced her speech with a greeting in Gaelic and expressed recognition of the sad and regrettable reality “ that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss. These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the Benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all”.

In response the President of Ireland said she was proud of Ireland’s difficult journey to national sovereignty and a republic which asserted religious and civil liberty. She was particularly proud of her Island’s peacemakers who having experienced first hand the appalling toxic harvest of failing to resolve old hatreds and political differences, rejected the perennial culture of conflict and compromised enough to let a new future in.”

There was a small demonstration outside the location of the dinner as there were at other places visited, kept away from the President and her guests. The streets of journeys were kept clear of vehicles and pedestrians, The visit was not one I anticipated happening during my lifetime

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