Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Classics in the Movies: Gallipoli (1981)

I went to see a movie in 1981 that has haunted me ever since. It was called Gallipoli, directed by a then "up and coming" director named Peter Weir. (Weir went on the direct many other popular films including  A Year of Living Dangerously, Witness, Dead Poets Society, Green Card, The Truman Show and Master and Commander. I lived in Omaha at the time, and I remember going to the Dundee Theater with my parents to see this movie that I had never heard of, and had no idea what or where Gallipoli was.
The reason I am writing about it here is Weir's use of classical music. Against a backdrop of the first world war, two young Australian men are coming of age (played by Mel Gibson and Mark Lee). Before becoming soldiers, they share a love of of my favorite things as well. The first part of the movie features some great running sequences.
The Gallipoli Campaign lasted from February 19, 1915 through January 9, 1916. The Gallipoli peninsula lies along the Dardanelles straits in what is now Turkey. The goal of the allies was to take Gallipoli and then capture Constantinople (Istanbul today). As with many battles in WWI, trench warfare ensued and both sides suffered horrendous casualties. The Allies ultimately failed to achieve their objective and the Ottoman forces celebrated what turned out to be their last major victory before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
The final scene of the movie is a breathtakingly beautiful and sad convergence of running, the futility of trench warfare, and the senseless loss of young lives, all played out to the Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Albinoni in the background. Take a look.

If you have not heard Albinoni's Adagio in G minor, please take time to do so. It is one of the most beautiful pieces in the classical repertoire:

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