Monday, April 30, 2012

War and Death and the Camera

MacArthur Uncles.

Yesterday, Sunday, my husband and I took a meal of bbq chicken and quinoa salad to eat with my father in law who is at the Veteran's Hospital in Ste. Anne, he's 92, and then came home to watch five hours of a program called Apocalypse WWII, on the National Geographic Station.

Well, my husband settled to watch it and I am recovering from a cervical disk issue and can't do much else, even type for any length of time, I watched too.

And I turned to my husband and said, "I don't remember seeing any of this footage before." "Did they film in colour in 42?.

Well, it seems I was right. A lot of  footage the program contains, mostly of human misery and degradation, has been recently declassified by the governments or discovered in personal collections and digitally enhanced and colourized.

It seems there was a lot of film taken during WWII, by the Allies, Germans and Japanese. Only recently declassified, I guess. So not released during or after WWII.  (Instead, movies like Casablanca were released in 42, romanticizing war.)  John Houston and John Ford took war footage for the Americans. Controlling the image is important: It has been said that news  images of the Vietnam war propelled the anti-war movement in the US.

Anyway, this program showed the human side of war, the human devastation side, and for this reason, I had to keep watching, despite the fact the film contains thousands of images of dead and dying bodies, young men, soldiers mostly, starving to death, freezing to death, mortally wounded and  civilians too, men and women and children. Holocaust images.  In movies, soldiers are portrayed by actors in their late twenties or thirties, but in real life they are college age kids, or jr college aged and in the case of Hitler's youth, children.

And then there was MacArthur, strutting around. My husband's 3rd? cousin. My father in law in the Veteran's and my husband both resemble the General a lot.

And after watching this I thought, my grandmother's story, of being tortured in Changi Prison Looking for Mrs. Peel is such a minuscule part of the WWII story, but that's how human beings best process things, in personal stories.  (I saw recently that Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman have started filming The Railway Man, another story about a prisoner of war on the Thai Burma Railroad.

The man Firth portrays supposedly goes back to Japan in later life to face the man who tortured him. Funny, my grandfather, also at Changi with my grandmother, and also forced to work on that Railway, visited Japan once a year until his death.

My grandmother hated the Japanese to the end, although she never talked about her days in the camp. She left behind a diary or memoir of sorts and I used that for the Looking For Mrs. Peel story. She was tortured in an incident called The Double Tenth.

Because of my injury, I couldn't get around to typing out Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl although |I've pretty well finished it and created a boffo final scene (or next to final) that has Edith Nicholson discuss eugenics with her cousin Henry the Doctor. Henry says "The female of the race is the social engineer, as she chooses what qualities she wants in a mate." Edith will respond that she thought it was the other way around. Henry will reply "We could argue about that until the cows come home." For some reason this highly successful man never married. Edith never married either, for reasons explained in Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.


Edith Nicholson was Commandant of the Quebec Red Cross in WWII. She told my husband, wars are always about money.