It seems that a combination of memories and research have pretty much ruined WWI movies for me because they are usually so terribly off, even when they’re very well done.
I suppose this is a good thing over all; the more things I spot wrong the less “in the moment” I feel, and I can sort of make a game of it.
The first thing you’ll see in any movie set in the trenches of the Western Front is that to tell a compelling story, they can’t really convey the sheer boredom that accounted for 90% of the daily routine. They kind of have to cut out the bits about sitting around an old cable spool re-used as a table trying desperately to come up with new games with the 49 cards you have left because three were lost some time during the last fire fight, which was some time ago.
Then of course, there’s the usual sanctimonious drama you see in war movies, like the ending scene of the Canadian film “Passchendaele.” Besides the fact that the crucified soldier vignette is about as subtle as a pink elephant, it also refers to a war atrocity that the Germans might not have ever committed (a joint British/German investigation into the crucified soldier story was launched after the war).
Apart from that, the film’s special effects director also falls into too many Hollywood action movie tropes, including scores of men flying dramatically backward when hit by machine gun fire and men being thrown a great distance in one piece after an artillery shell explodes right next to them (I suppose most audiences would be too disturbed if they showed that realistically).
Apart from that, film renditions tend to always forget something that I can usually spot right away, some more than others.
Take this scene from “The Trench” for instance:
First of all, their clothes are much too clean, even though I can tell that wardrobe tried their best to dirty them up; you just can’t fake that level of crustiness with theatrical tricks no matter how hard you try and the closeup of the watch and shirt cuff really tell on how clean everything actually is. Also, the dirt makeup on their faces is fairly unconvincing.
Second, there is one fellow there who appears to be about twenty stone or so. Not only would being so seriously overweight make it difficult to run and breathe properly, but it would also make going over in full kit so strenuous that even an otherwise-healthy heart would have a difficult time of it. The average weight for most soldiers was only 8 stone.
Third, these men are going over but they’re not in full kit; it looks like only a partial kit with many of the important accessories like the groundsheet roll omitted. Here’s a photo of men in full kit.
Finally, they don’t do it as much as “Passchendaele,” but there are a few instances of the “man gets shot, flies backward” trope used for dramatic effect here.
In all, these are things that I don’t think the average moviegoer would spot, and with the exception of the above trope I wouldn’t have noticed before about a year ago. Now, they stand out very plainly for me.