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Paths of Glory (1957)

Monday 11 December 2006, by ps

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writers: Stanley Kubrick (screenplay), Calder Willingham (screenplay), 2 more credits »

When soldiers in World War I refuse to continue with an impossible attack, their superior officers decide to make an example of them.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Paths of Glory is based, loosely ,on the true story of five French soldiers executed for mutiny during World War I. The blameless, subordinate, soldiers are victimized following a mass refusal to participate in a suicidal attack on an impregnable fortress, and are condemned to die to cover up the wrong-headed actions of their ruthless and opportunistic superiors during the six-month bloodbath that was the Battle of Verdun.

The protracted conflict claimed the lives of 315,000 French soldiers (poilus) on the Western front. The men’s families sued, and while the executions were ruled unfair, two of the families received one franc each, while the other three received nothing. Due to the film’s raw, controversially-offensive and critical assessment of the hypocritical French military and bureaucratic authorities who callously condemn and sacrifice three randomly-chosen innocent men with execution (for cowardice) for their own fatal blunder, it was banned in France and Switzerland until 1975, almost twenty years after its release. In Germany the film wasn’t allowed to be shown for 2 years after its release to avoid any strain in relations with France. The fllm was also officially censored in Spain by the government of Francisco Franco for its anti-military content, and was not released in that country until 1986, 11 years after Franco’s death.

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