Christopher Nolan’s latest film Dunkirk has found critical and box office success, raking in approximately $160 million at domestic and international theaters combined. The tightly crafted film masters cinematic tension while staying faithful to the actual history of the tragic battle.
However, to one audience member, the vivid depiction of the Battle of Dunkirk wasn’t merely history brought to life but a personal memory of pain and sadness.
“I was taken back all those years you know. Such a lot of memories…We lost, so many of my friends are gone now and I keep going with all my memories. They’re all there. And that film brought it all back again. It all came back to me.”
Those are the words of 97-year-old Ken Sturdy, a veteran of Dunkirk who was 20 at the time of the battle, after seeing the film. Though Sturdy is pleased to have seen the film and hails its accurate realism, he hopes young people will take more than entertainment value from the movie.
“There’s something about warfare,” Sturdy said to reporters after the debut showing in Calgary. “It’s as though we as a human species, we never learn.”
“Don’t just go to the movie for entertainment. Think about it. And when you become adults, keep thinking…Tonight I cried because it’s never the end. It won’t happen. We the human species are so intelligent and we do such astonishing things. We can fly to the moon but we still do stupid things. So when I see the film tonight, I see it with a certain kind of sadness. Because what happened back then in 1940, it’s not the end.”
Due to his experiences, Sturdy seems resigned to believing in the inevitability of war, yet it is easy to glean from his sadness that he hopes his foreboding conclusion isn’t true.
“One of my mates taken prisoner,” Sturdy recounted, “he spent five years in a German prison camp in East Germany/Poland and we used to talk about it. He’d say, ‘Ken, why do we do this?’”
Indeed, Mr. Sturdy, that is the question. Given the immense suffering and destruction war brings, why do we continue to do this?
I tend to think of war as mass murder conducted in the name of high ideals, and it makes me despair to see so many people so often eager for it. The highest aspiration of human beings should be peace. But despite peacemakers’ hopes and worries, war continues to afflict the human race. Unfortunately, we must remember that just because an aspiration is true and beautiful doesn’t mean it will become a reality.
Nonetheless, here’s to seeing our hopes for perpetual peace born out.
Watch Ken Sturdy’s interview for yourself here:
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