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Film – Masterpieces in wartime

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Spoils, treasures and our artistic heritage.

Many war movies are about the personal dramas of a handful of soldiers, who often stand in for the wartime experiences of armies and people at large. Films about the more strategic or abstract aspects of war are few and far between – a famous, Oscarwinning example being the biopic Patton, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and cowritten by a young Francis Ford Coppola – because viewers like to be able to relate to the characters.

A tiny subset of war films has looked at the complex fate of art during armed conflicts, a rich subject matter only a few features have explored, including John Frankenheimer’s 1964 classic The Train, with Burt Lancaster. Recently however there have been a number of films about quests to save art during wartime, including the high-profile, George Clooney-directed The Monuments Men – also starring Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray and John Goodman – and German director Volker Schlöndorff’s Diplomacy, an adaptation of a French play by Cyril Gely that’s practically a two-hander and stars French acting veterans André Dussolier and Niels Arestrup.

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