Monday, 21 September 2015


“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” - Albert Einstein

September 21st is the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere and the Vernal Equinox for us in the Southern Hemisphere. It heralds the official arrival of Autumn and Spring respectively. Equinox implies equal periods of light and darkness on this day, with (at the appropriate latitude, 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night from sunrise to sunset).

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world also on 21st September. The United Nations General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The theme of this year’s commemoration is “Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All” which aims to highlight the importance of all segments of society to work together to strive for peace.

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by resolution 36/67PDF document of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982.

As it is Movie Monday today, I’d like to review a classic film that has its theme war, and delivers a strong anti-war, pro-peace message. It is Mike Nichols’ 1970 film “Catch-22” starring Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, Jon Voigt, Orson Welles, and Bob Newhart. Everyone conversant with English knows and probably often uses the phrase “catch-22” to describe a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. Many people who use this phrase may not know its origin. It is the title of a brilliant satirical novel, “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller that mocks war, the military, and politics. The movie is based on this novel and it is an excellent book-to-film adaptation.

The plot concerns Yossarian (Alan Arkin), a bombardier who realises the impossibility of ever completing the required number of bombing missions to be rotated out of harm’s way. This is because his commanding officers (Balsam and Henry) are constantly upping the number of missions required once anyone gets close to that number. Yossarian decides his best bet is to try for a medical disqualification for flight under the grounds that it’s insane to fly these missions, and since he’s flying them, he must be insane. But the flight surgeon (Jack Gilford) declares anyone who realises the insanity of the situation must, by definition, be sane, and therefore must continue to fly – Catch-22!

I read the novel in the second form of High School and then watched the movie a couple of years after it was made. I enjoyed both immensely then, and since then have re-read the novel and watched the film recently, as an adult. The enjoyment has increased, as (obviously) has my understanding of both.

The movie shines in terms of film-making: The wonderful cinematography (shot in widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1), the sharp editing, the crisp sound, the great pacing, the excellent casting, the flawless acting, the incredibly complex staging of many scenes: all done to perfection. Mike Nichols has directed relatively few movies, but his list of titles is impressive: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “The Graduate”, “Carnal Knowledge”, “The Day of the Dolphin”, “Biloxi Blues”, etc.

"Catch-22" is very funny and tragic at the same time. The script and dialogue are witty and intelligent, and the theme is clear without needing to be shoved into the viewers’ face. Comparing this anti-war film with some recent similar films can only make one wax even more lyrical about “Catch-22”. Anyone who has had anything to do with the military, I think, can appreciate the insanity depicted and the futility and terrible waste that war is. You must watch this film and read the book if you have not done so!

No comments:

Post a Comment