Monday, April 28, 2014

Monuments Men Critique

Monuments Men Review
The film Monuments Men, staring and directed by George Clooney was based on the true events surrounding the men responsible for protecting the artwork at risk in Europe during World War 2.  The Monuments Men consisted of a seven-man team of hand picked art experts.  These men were not trained soldiers, yet they often found themselves fighting on the frontline as the sole defenders of cultural property.  While the film did use a fair amount of artistic license to spice up the drama, the overall message of the movie was in alignment with what we learned about in class, and in the documentary: The Rape of Europa. 
The struggles to find funds, as well as the passion that the Monuments Men demonstrated for their love of art was clearly present in the film.  There were historical elements packed in with all of the edge-of-your-seat-action, and drama.  An example would be the plotline that followed Cate Blanchett’s character Rose Valland.  In reality, she did exist, and her book that documented the transport of the paintings really did play a major roll in the recovery and discovery of the Nazi mines.  Her character was spruced up by scenes like the one showing her secretly spitting into a Nazi general’s Champaign glass. 
The intimate relationship that director George Clooney built between the audience and the each of the characters gave us a look into the true severity of the situation.  Their mission became of upmost importance as the falling Nazi regime threatened to destroy their plundered collection in a final stand.  This was occurring simultaneously with the uprising of the Russian Trophy Brigade (an elite team of Russian Soldiers whose goal was to keep the art for themselves.)  Monuments Men did an excellent job of showing the European citizens distrust of the monuments men due to the actions of the Trophy Brigade.  There was a strong belief across much of Europe that the American Army was deploying men to steal the artwork for their own collections in the US.  In reality, this was a serious problem that the men did have to overcome in order to find the storage facilities of the Nazis before they were burned. 
There was a scene in the movie that showed one of the mines full of paintings being burned.  They showed Nazi soldiers igniting countless numbers of paintings with flamethrowers.  As the camera paned out to show how vast the collection truly was, it paused on a particular painting.   The frame began to smolder, as the oil paint slowly bubbled away to ash.  The painting was: Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael.  The actual location and fate of this masterpiece remains unknown to this day.  The documentary The Rape of Europa took a more optimistic approach, stating that they are still hopeful that the painting will resurface. 

Overall, the film Monuments Men did a great job balancing history with theatrical drama and action.  I left the theater with an understanding of the risks that the seven Monuments Men were prepared to take in order to preserve not only the artwork of Europe, but also the cultures and histories of thousands of families, villages and the overall spirits of a trampled continent. 

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