Incontestable proof...
Forty Years in the Wilderness

A Few Movies

Two or three, depending on how you count. 

The first one isn't "a movie," exactly: the BBC series from 1975, Edward the King, aka Edward the Seventh--it seems to have had the former title in the U.S., the latter in the U.K. In thirteen one-hour segments (which actually seem to have been assembled from half-hour segments), it tells the entire life story of Edward VII from birth till death. I can't vouch for its historical accuracy to any great degree, but I think it is at least true to the known facts. Since Edward, like our current Prince Charles, spent most of his life in waiting, his mother is in most episodes, and Annette Crosbie's portrayal of Queen Victoria from young wife to old woman is a real tour de force. Timothy West's Edward (as an adult) is also excellent. The acting throughout is very fine (John Gielgud makes an appearance as Disraeli). Recommended if you have any taste for historical drama.

Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds are the second and third films in a trilogy by Polish director Andrzej Wajda. Made in the 1950s, and bearing noticeable stylistic similarities to the cinematic work being done in France and Italy at the time, they deal with the situation of Poland during and after the war. 

Kanal is set during the Warsaw Uprising, and if you know anything about that you won't be surprised that it is an extremely grim work. It follows the doomed effort of a troop of Polish fighters--regular soldiers, and a few others, including two women--to escape the surrounding German army through the Warsaw sewers. I'm not giving anything away with the word "doomed" there, because you learn in the opening minutes that they are doomed. It's very powerful, and very deeply sad: you'll want to go out and grieve afterward. So why would I want to watch it? you say. Well, art is a strange thing, isn't it?

Kanal is on the surface a straightforward war story. Ashes and Diamonds is more complex. The story takes place just at the end of the war, and involves the situation then developing in Poland in which Nazi oppression was lifted and immediately replaced by Soviet oppression. But the political situation is less important than the personal situation of Maciek, a partisan who has survived the war against the Germans and is now attempting to assassinate a Russian official. It is the story of a man who has hardened himself against life but now wants to come in out of the cold, to use John Le Carre's famous metaphor. An intensely memorable story, though also not a sweet one.

There is a third film in the trilogy, A Generation, which seems to be generally considered inferior to the other two. Perhaps I'll give it a try someday. Has anyone seen it?


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That first one looks interesting and I see you can stream it.

I think I would have to be in a particular kind of mood before I could watch the other two. I read Leon Uris's Mila 18 about the Polish ghetto a long time ago, maybe before I was married. It was the first time I'd ever encountered that subject and I found it fascinating, although I don't remember much of it now.

We finally watched Mrs. Miniver the other night. I've seen it several times before, but not for a long time. I found that I remember the early, happy part, and Dunkirk, but nothing after that. It must have been really difficult to make movies at that time because the happy ending was definitely out of the picture. Did you watch the extras? There were things in them that I found rather chillingly familiar.

A few years ago I found a book by Elizabeth Goudge written at that time that I'd never read before. Actually, I found the book,The Castle on the Hill, on tapes. It is in some ways reminiscent of Mrs. Miniver. It's the saddest of all EG's books and while there is some of that magical quality, there's not near as much as in her other novels.


I think I watched Mrs. M on TCM, so I didn't have any extras. What kinds of things are you talking about? There was some mention in what's-his-name's commentary about it being successful precisely because it dealt in an emotionally realistic way with the war.

And then there's Caryll Houselander's This War is the Passion. It's sad now to read some of CH's hopes for post-war Britain.

I wish I could get a hold of that, but, yes, you read those hopes in several places.


Well, that book was easier to get than I thought. I should have it in plenty of time for Lent.


I meant to say earlier--I was sort of mixing up two things there: her remarks about that book, and her hopes expressed about a post-war renewal of Christianity in Britain. I haven't read This War either.

Now I have something to read for Lent. I feel guilty about buying it since yesterday someone donated her deceased husband's library to the seminary and I and many other people went home with a car full of books. I felt kind of bad about that, too, except they were such good books including a big, like-new, hardback, maybe leather but probably not, 3-volume edition of the Summa and a History of Christianity in the Middle Ages by Gilson and many, many others.



At least if it gets icy I have ballast for my car--but then it's 60 degrees.


What a nice find. You'll probably make better use of those particular books than the seminary students would.

If you start right away you may be able to finish reading the Summa before you die.

Mac, I have seen all three of those movies. I think all three are equally good, though 'Diamonds' is probably the best. But in my opinion, the best Wadja films are Man of Marble, Man of Iron and Katyn. All three are superior to the post-war trilogy, in my view, and I think the post-war trilogy is very good, as well as being almost unbearably sad.

Thanks, I will look right away on Netflix for A Generation first, and also the others. I had never heard of the director or any of his work till someone recommended the two above-mentioned to me a couple of years ago (at least). They finally made it to the top of the queue in January.

There's been a lot of double-speak around here lately. Type Pad must have developed a stutter.


I know why that one happened. I was on my iNotAPhone.

I wish there was a like button here.


I haven't seen any of the movies you mention but I did watch 'Katyn' a couple years ago. Very good but, again, quite sad. I had not heard of Wajda up until that point.

I recently came across, in two different sources, a couple British war-era memoirs that look like they'd be worth reading. One is a trio of memoirs by Cynthia Asquith, starting around 1910 and finishing after WWI. The other is a set of two memoirs by E.F. Benson, one about life before the Great War and one after -- 'As We Were' and 'As We Are.' Both sets appear to be fairly easily obtainable.

With regards to the Summa, Maclin, I intend to emulate MFOC and read St. Thomas every night before bed.

I couldn't make any judgment on the Summa except to say this: I read it every night before I go to bed. If my mother were to come in during the process and say, "Turn off that light. It's late," I with lifted finger and broad bland beautific expression, would reply, "On the contrary, I answer that the light, being eternal and limitless, cannot be turned off. Shut your eyes," or some such thing. In any case I feel I can personally guarantee that St. Thomas loved God because for the life of me I cannot help loving St. Thomas.

I'm hoping that a beatific expression might lesson the effect of the CPAP machine.

By the way, what she says about St. Thomas is exactly what I feel about her and Walker Percy. Reading about other authors has been a disillusionment, but reading about them has made me love them.


Funny, that passage is one of the few specific things I remember from reading Habit of Being over 25 years ago.

Katyn is pretty much bound to be sad, assuming the subject is the Katyn Massacre.

One of the things I didn't know about the Warsaw uprising was that the Germans went house-to-house shooting civilians, in the tens of thousands.

Yes, I felt really quite depressed the day after watching Katyn.

I meant to say earlier, in reply to Rob: it would be fascinating to compare those memoirs to Downton Abbey.

I also meant to include a link to the the Wikipedia entry on the Warsaw Uprising.

And while I'm at it, the Katyn Massacre.

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