The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Another three hour movie that I ended up being at a loss for words about. I really liked it, and like many films, I understand why it is masterful, but I just don't know what to say about it!

Today I watched The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1943. The plot covers a huge amount of time and it does so in a great way, and works in a bit of humor as well. I mostly liked the message - an older general looking back on his life, mourning the days when soldiers had a code of honor. The movie also shows us that older people know way more than young people, and are a great source of wisdom. I think the message is good enough that I think the hours I spent watching this movie were worth it, even if I felt a little underwhelmed at the end of it.


 The film covers the whole life of Major General Clive Wynne-Candy. We first see him when he is old, and he seems outdated and dull compared to the young soldiers around him. Then, we flash backward, so we can see his entire youth and life, and we learn so much about him. We see the women that he loved, the energy he had, and now, the struggle he faces as he tries to adapt to modern times. I'm a sucker for any story about people struggling to adapt (why? I must not feel like I fit in very well, haha!), and I liked this story a lot as well.

This is so juvenile, but the worst part of the film, for me, was the length. It was a beautiful day out and I wanted to go read outside and do a million other things, but unfortunately, I had to sit and watch this movie for almost all of my afternoon. Just the fact that I had to sit inside and watch something so long made me resent what I was watching. It's no fault of the film, just my own. But, that is where all of my "meh" feelings are coming from. It is clearly a great film, but I don't really care for it because I wish I had been able to get other things done instead of watch it, and it just was simply too long. I think I could have understood the story and message and had it been shorter, but I don't have much of an attention span today. Ah well, I should be honest, and the length of the film was something that really bothered me.

Everything about the film was good, though. It was beautiful, in perfect bright color. It was a great story with a great message. The acting was really incredible, and I really believed in all of the characters that I saw. I was interested in Candy's life, loves, and war experiences. All the actors seem to be really engrossed in their roles, and the whole thing was just interesting to watch. It was mostly just the length that made me bored, and in my mood, I found the pacing to be a little slow. But pacing and length do not make a movie. It is more important that the message be great, if not the story, and I think both are great here. So even though I probably wouldn't watch this movie again, I can say that I liked it.

At the end of his review, Ebert seems to put into words what I liked about this movie, writing, "At the end of the movie he [Candy] looks at a water pool in the basement of his bombed-out house, and is reminded of a lake across which he once pledged love. And he insists to himself that it is the same lake, and he is the same man. Rarely does a film give us such a nuanced view of the whole span of a man's life. Is is said that the child is father to the man. "Colonel Blimp" makes poetry out of what the old know but the young do not guess: The man contains both the father, and the child" (Great Movies II, 261). I think this is an amazing way to sum up the message of the movie. We are ourselves - old and past and present, all at the same time. We have all the wisdom of those day, and all the errors. We teach ourselves new things based on our past experiences (or at least I do). We struggle sometimes to accept that choices we made in the past, but we end up learning from our mistakes and finding peace. I like that message enough to like the film even though it was so long and kept me inside. It's worth watching, if you ever have the time, and it's currently streaming on Netflix. Let me know if you check it out!

Links:
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Buy it at Amazon

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