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December 10 - February 27, 2005

On All Fronts: World War II on Film

We continue our yearlong examination of war and its consequences with a focus on the Second World War. While the majority of war-related films produced in Hollywood during the 1940s were supportive if not unabashedly propagandistic, most filmmakers did not take a more critical view of these events until many years later. This series focuses on many of these reconsiderations which seek not to explain "why we fight" but rather "at what cost."


December 10 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Thin Red Line

Directed by Terrence Malik
US, 1998, color, 170 min.
With Sean Penn, Adrian Brody, Ben Chaplin

A poetic interpretation of James Jones' novel (filmed before in 1964) about a United States Army platoon trying to take Guadalcanal from the Japanese during World War II, The Thin Red Line offers intense portraits of various soldiers - from a pacifist private to a results-driven lieutenant colonel - along with powerful philosophical and spiritual musings (conveyed through voice-overs) on war, death, courage, and sanity. A stunning and rich piece of filmmaking, The Thin Red Line transcends its war theme to address questions about life itself.

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December 11 (Sunday) 7 pm

Seven Beauties (Pasqualino Settebellezze)

Directed by Lina Wertmüller
Italy, 1975, color, 115 min.
With Giancarlo Giannini, Fernando Rey, Shirley Stoler
Italian with English subtitles

Few directors have polarized audiences quite as strongly as Lina Wertmüller, and this film offers plenty of provocation to support her notorious reputation. Giancarlo Giannini portrays a petty thief who is sent to an insane asylum after murdering and dismembering the pimp who coerced his sister into a life of prostitution. He is then ordered to join the Italian army and is eventually captured by the Germans and sent to a concentration camp, where he attempts to seduce a sadistic female commander. Wertmüller's satire of Italian machismo was honored with four Academy Award nominations, including the first Best Director nomination given to a woman.

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December 12 (Monday) 9 pm

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Directed by Nagisa
UK/Japan, 1983, color, 124 min.
With David Bowie, Tom Conti, Ryuichi Sakamoto
English and Japanese with English subtitles

This international co-production brought the talents of Nagisa Oshima, one of the founding members of the Japanese New Wave and director of the controversial In the Realm of the Senses, to a more traditional genre: the war film. Oshima nevertheless translates the form into an unsettling assessment of two highly ritualistic military cultures in conflict, replete with stylized violence and homoerotic overtones. Set in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Java in 1942, the film contrasts the machismo and hara-kiri ethos of the military captors with the stiff-upper-lip resiliency of their British charges. David Bowie was noted for his performance as the "soldier's soldier" Major Jack Celliers. Print courtesy of Janus Films.

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February 6 (Monday) 9pm

The Hill

Directed by Sidney Lumet
UK, 1965, b&w, 123 min.
With Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen

In between Bond films Sean Connery starred in The Hill, an intense drama set in a British military prison camp in North Africa. The cruel punishment for prisoners in the camp is a forced run up and down a hill in the sweltering heat of the midday sun. Connery gives a powerful performance, and the supporting cast of mostly British actors fiercely intimidates while cinematographer Oswald Morris' black and white photography beautifully captures the harsh setting.

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February 7 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Fires on the Plain

Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Japan, 1959, B&W, 108 min.
With Eiji Funakoshi, Osama Takizawa, Mickey Curtis
Japanese with English subtitles

Fires on the Plain takes place at the end of World War II as a desperate group of sick and starving Japanese soldiers hide in the jungles of the Philippines. The film focuses on Private Tamura (Funakoshi) as he faces tuberculosis, insanity, demoralization, murder, and cannibalism while he struggles to survive to the end of the war with his morality intact. Brutally realistic and disturbingly graphic, Fires on the Plain carries a powerful anti-war message.

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February 8 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Hell in the Pacific

Directed by John Boorman
US, 1968, color, 103 min.
With Lee Marvin, Toshiro Mifune
English and Japanese with English subtitles

In Hell in the Pacific, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune star as a United States Marine and a Japanese Officer stranded together on a deserted Pacific island during World War II. The two men are at first hostile towards each other as they are unwilling and unable to communicate, but they eventually form a fragile and tense relationship as they try to survive the harsh conditions of the island. Gorgeous scenery serves as a magnificent backdrop to the intense performances in this unusual film. Print courtesy of the Irish Film Archive.

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February 15 (Wednesday) 9 pm

The Night of the Shooting Stars (La Notte di San Lorenzo)

Directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani
Italy, 1982, color, 105 min.
With Omero Antonutti, Margarita Lozano, Claudio Bigagli
Polish and German with English subtitles

A woman recalls the struggles of her Tuscan village with Fascism during World War II one evening while wishing upon a shooting star. This moving account of the final gasp of Nazi occupation in Italy combines harrowingly graphic battle sequences with a moving sense of magical realism. The Taviani brothers' acclaimed portrayal of resistance fighters was celebrated with a Special Jury Prize at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, and cited as best of film of the year by the National Society of Film Critics.

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February 20 (Monday) 9 pm

Foreign Correspondent

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
US, 1940, B&W, 120 min.
With Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall
English, Dutch and Latvian with English subtitles

This supremely entertaining and suspenseful World War II spy thriller features Joel McCrea as a European foreign correspondent and Laraine Day as his love interest. After a diplomat in London is kidnapped, McCrea searches for Nazi spies in London and Holland with help from reporters George Sanders and Robert Benchley. Nothing is what it seems as plot twists abound, and Westminster Cathedral and a giant windmill provide settings for two of the many classic Hitchcock showpieces that appear in the film. The film's propagandistic ending, which pleas for support for the war against Nazi Germany, is fascinating when viewed from a historical perspective.

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February 22 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Innocence Unprotected

Directed by Dusan Makavejev
Yugoslavia, 1968, B&W and color, 75 min.
With Dragolijub Aleksic, Bratolijub Gligorijevic, Vera Jovanovic
Serbo-Croatian with English subtitles

In a pioneering exploration of the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, Dusan Makavejev resurrects a primitive Serbian talkie made during the Nazi occupation and surrounds it with period newsreels and contemporary interviews with the surviving members of its cast. The film within the film is a wonderfully naïve melodrama about a young woman whose wicked stepmother forces her into a relationship with a wealthy suitor despite her avowed love for a strongman, who predictably comes to her rescue. In Makavejev's hands the material yields both humor and some profound history lessons, as the poignant aspirations of film people encounter the larger realities of life during the war.

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February 27 (Monday) 9 pm

The Naked and the Dead

Directed by Raoul Walsh
US, 1958, color, 131 min.
With Aldo Ray, Nancy Olson, Van Heflin

Based on Norman Mailer's acclaimed and best-selling novel about World War II, The Naked and the Dead is a sympathetic portrayal of an army platoon behind enemy lines in Japan, depicting the stresses of war and the tensions that exist between officers and enlisted men. The film is an excellent example of director Raoul Walsh's ability to construct believable combat scenes, and it features his trademark impressive action sequences as well as spectacular jungle scenery. Raymond Massey gives a memorable performance as an obsessively militaristic general.

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