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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Great Last Scenes: Paths of Glory

Year: 1957
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Great Because...: It is the only moment of respite in a film that relentlessly shows the ugly side of military bureaucracy and human nature. The scene is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming, renewing the faith in humanity that may have dwindled away during the course of the film.

Col. Dax is at his lowest point, having seen first hand the depths of military corruption and failed in his efforts to bring justice to three soldiers arbitrarily chosen for execution. He wanders over to the tavern, where the "entertainment" that is unfolding seems destined to rob him of whatever good feelings he has left for his fellow man.

Inside, the bar owner brings out a reluctant, frightened and confused German girl and makes her take the stage. The French soliders go wild, catcalling and whistling, determined to humiliate her because in this moment she stands for everything that has been making their lives miserable - the shells, the trenches, the fear, the futility of the whole endeavor. She begins to sing a song and slowly the soldiers calm down. She's singing in German but they recognize the tune and one by one they begin humming along. Suddenly they feel human again and are able to see that the girl, too, far from being "the enemy" is just a human being as well. It's a beautiful moment and Dax, seeing it, decides to let them savour it before collecting them and returning to the horrors of the trench.


Rick Bman said...

This is one of my favorite Kubrick movies and I had a chance to see it in the theater a couple years back in a double feature with The Killing. The final scene really is great and says so much and I think you really nailed it on the head with what you said.

Norma Desmond said...

The scene is so simple and yet so moving. I can't think of a better way for the movie to end.