Cross of Iron (1977)
I just finished watching the film Cross of Iron (1977) and I must say it now ranks as one of the best war/anti-war films I have seen. It demonstrates what is, to me, the essence of the genre. That the particulars of time and place, nationality and politics are all irrelevant. That the setting is merely a vehicle for the examination of the best and worst to be found in humanity, which is brought about through the unimaginable insanity of the situations in which the players find themselves.
From the film’s commentary:
“The destructive violence shown here is endless. It’s an eternal cycle throughout history, just as the tendency towards Fascism, embrace of authority, super-patriotism, and its use to oppress others is always present in human history. The battlefield is eternal. It’s Peckinpah’s metaphor for human life, and it’s why his outlook is so grim and alienated.”
“[Steiner’s speech] is enigmatic, but the main idea is that politics can never work. That all of the political systems – National Socialism, Communism (and by implication, Capitalism) – which promise to free and empower people are lies, and merely new forms of enslavement. All are violence without mind – accidents – temporary forms of power thrown up by history and all are doomed to failure. No-man’s land, where Steiner says they stand, is the only enduring reality. But the individual can’t long survive there.”
“Peckinpah is in a deeply dark place, with no evident means to escape it. The despair is total! Psychological, political, emotional. No American film-maker has shown WWII with such absolute, uncompromising despair. It’s no wonder therefore that American audiences didn’t like this movie.”
-Stephen Prince, author of Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies