‘Little Women’ and ‘1917’: Two Great Movies, Two Different Futures and One Common Thread

by on January 28, 2020 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Colleen O’Connor

Old things are often new again.  Not just in fashion, but in film as well. Two such great movies debuted this last year on their 2019 anniversaries.

Little Women — on the 150th anniversary of its publication and 1917 — on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I.

Both movies are Oscar nominees. Both are box office hits—1917 with a world-wide take of $155 million; and Little Women with a comparable $134 million. And both ranked high on Rotten Tomatoes.  Little Women with a 95% rating and 1917 at 90%.

Most importantly, both these old era stories are new and consequential again.

I taught History through Film courses because I found them to often be the best instructors. No matter how witty, clever, engaging or dramatic, any teacher is, nothing captures students’ interest like a movie. They require little or no introduction and inspire lots of curiosity and questions about seminal periods of history — if the movies are great.

Pick a classic.  Any classic. For example, Casablanca (World War II and fascism).  The Deer Hunter (Vietnam and loss).

And now Little Women (Civil War era) and 1917 (WWI). All these films are seminal.  All with wonderful actors.  All cinematic and educational triumphs. And all tell the sweep of history through personal stories. Not grand flourishes, but intimate, personal battles, well told.

Yet, the two films diverge.  One foretelling the ultimate gains (albeit 100 years later) of women who pursued the outer limits available to them.

The other, sadly, recounting the seemingly pointless, often horrific constancy of never-ending wars (mostly waged by men) with ever-escalating weapons of mass destruction.

Nonetheless, in both movies, a grander narrative takes hold—in the intimacy of each hero/heroine’s heart—and the character of their souls.

The leads in both films strive for the universal, the immutable, the powerful and the triumphant win of belief over pain and loss and fear.  That belief takes a bruising in nearly every frame, but that chiseling results in a character worthy of admiration.

In short, someone we might all aspire to be. As, Stephanie Zacharek, of Time magazine, wrote of the film, 1917:

“[I]ts inherent devotion to life and beauty is part of its power…individual moments of life, grasped and held tight, are the only real protection we have against the pointlessness of war.”

(https://time.com/5754858/1917-movie-review/)

And of Little Women, “The radical triumph of Little Women will outlive the Oscars.”

How relevant both these films are today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Karen January 28, 2020 at 12:09 pm

You told it perfectly, Colleen. Thanks for a meaningful movie review on “Little Women”.

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Avatar bodysurferbob January 29, 2020 at 11:36 am

ms o’connor – i’m enjoying your writings but if you are a former college film instructor, i’d like to see more substance in any future movie reviews, your critique of the plot, the presentation, the actors, whether you recommend it or not, why it may stand the test of time ….

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