Dunkirk – Movie Review

An unusual movie, quite brilliant, and one for which you should probably come prepared, Dunkirk drops the viewer into the middle of action already far underway.  If you don’t know you World War II history, you’re going to spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out what’s going on.  Or perhaps you’ll give up and go with it, but you’ll be cheating yourself on the importance of what is taking place on the screen.  I’ll provide a small clue and tell you it’s a movie about survival and how far an individual and a group will go to achieve it.

The storyline doesn’t follow one particular character through his experiences and struggles during the war and evacuation.  Rather it presents the events taking place from multiple POVs, both military and civilian, thus providing a wonderful angle from which to view the scenes.  With this technique, the viewer is also treated to a variety of reactions about what is occurring.  Again, if you’re not familiar with World War II history, you may be surprised to find this isn’t an action movie with battle scenes like you were possibly expecting.

Dunkirk is an intense fusion of visuals and sounds.  At first I thought the cinematography looked too new, but the clarity of the shots appealed to me long before the movie was over.  When combined with an amazing soundtrack crafted by Hans Zimmer, the experience draws one in mind and body.  I found myself tensing up in my seat to the musical equivalent of the sound of gunfire, the groaning metal of a sinking destroyer, and a dive-bombing plane.

The movie doesn’t downplay the heroism of the men serving in France, but shares the valor with the civilians who rushed to their rescue for the evacuation effort.  And instead of presenting Germany as the soul antagonist, Dunkirk relays the various forces of antagonism that worked against the soldiers and civilians alike.

With a great cast of actors including Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy, Dunkirk is not for the casual movie goer.  However, if you’re a World War II history buff or a history buff in general, you’ll leave the theatre feeling like you walked every grueling step with the soldiers, and you’ll be glad you did.

Pop On Over, Love

IMG_20160607_085149863[1]By June of 1948, Dr. John Welles still hadn’t overcome his experiences during World War II. The haunting memories were more than he bargained for. Further gnawing at his conscience was the fact that his service had been quite brief. The worst part, though, was the secret John brought home from the war.

In his efforts to bury the painful truth of what took place in France, John became increasingly distanced from his family and friends. They were patient and loving in return, waiting for John to open up on his own terms. All except his Aunt Prudence.

Prudence had never been one to sit back and wait for things to happen. She always made her own outcome to her satisfaction, and this was exactly what she intended to do with John. Unfortunately, her well-meaning endeavors didn’t produce the results she had hoped for. She argued with her nephew until John simply shut down. Still, Prudence never backed off where he was concerned.

Into the middle of this family struggle stepped Lucia, Prudence’s sassy cook since the days of John’s boyhood. She knew her employer turned close friend had John’s best interests at heart, but sometimes Prudence’s tactics were too harsh, especially for a man still reeling from the effects of war.

One morning, over a breakfast of popovers, Lucia offered the sage advice that helped John make the first positive decision in his life since returning from Europe. Prudence hated to admit that her cook was right, but she didn’t press the issue.

The following recipe for popovers is the one I had in mind when writing the above-mentioned scene for my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. The recipe has been in my mother’s recipe box since her high school home economics days. Popovers are incredibly simple to make, and they taste delicious fresh from the oven with butter.

Enjoy!

Lucia’s Popovers

1 c all-purpose flour

½ t salt

1 c milk

2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 425° F

Thoroughly butter 5 – 9 custard cups. Mix all ingredients with a beater until smooth. Do not overbeat the batter or the volume will be reduced.

Fill the greased custard cups half full. Bake for 40 minutes. Resist the urge to peak or the popovers may fall. Check after 40 minutes. The popovers should be golden brown.

Serve warm with butter.

Night Flight

9c019efa-62b4-49a3-8d25-06bde493c6e7The rhythmic drumming of hooves from a single horse is followed within thirty seconds by the chaotic stampede of many horses. Branches slap the riders’ faces as they race beneath the low branches in pursuit of a lone horseman.

The forest reverberates with the sound of man and beast: leather saddles creaking, hilted swords rattling, shouts from the pursuers, and powerful blasts of breath from their steeds. All of it fading, fading into the distance as the last of the leaves disturbed from the branches glide silently to the ground, touching earth without so much as a sigh.

Belsante leans her whole body against the wet bark of the tree behind which she hides; her dress draws the moisture like a man dying of thirst. She presses her palms and cheek into the bark until it imprints her skin, but still she does not move. The rasp of her breath, steel against whetstone, swells and recedes in her ears.

Theobald left her with the promise of return and a scrap of cloth, the corners cross-tied into a knot, wherein he had placed a chunk of bread and a leather flask of wine. He barely had time to kiss her goodbye before he mounted his stallion, Saracen, and led her father’s retainers away from her hiding place.

They agreed that Belsante should make her way to the very abbey where her father planned to have her imprisoned upon learning of her desire to marry Theobald, a mere merchant’s son. It’s not that Belsante isn’t devout toward her faith or unwilling to attend the needs of the poor; she simply wants to marry the man with whom she had fallen in love and not the aging Duke her father had chosen for her. Furthermore, her father would never think to look for her there.

The Abbess, a kind woman with a progressive mind, doesn’t believe in making a girl serve against her will, no matter how generous the endowment from said girl’s father. The young lovers trust her to help in their plan to escape France. Where they’ll go and how they’ll make a living afterward is anyone’s guess. Theobald had proposed selling Saracen, the only thing of value he possesses, but the couple doesn’t know how to go about doing so without attracting attention.

When she can no longer hear the sound of hooves hammering the ground, Belsante peeks around the tree trunk. Twilight and mist dim the woods; she will need to hurry if she wants to reach the abbey before she is caught. The threat of wolves hastens her steps.

The young girl travels throughout the night, and as dawn approaches the horizon, she sees the walls of the abbey on the edge of town. She also sees her father’s men leading Saracen, his mouth flecked with foam, his sweat-glistened sides heaving. Theobald does not sit astride the majestic, black horse who limps as he walks.

Belsante cannot hear the conversation between her father’s men and the Abbess, but she can tell from the determined shake of the Abbess’ head that she is aware of the night’s events. With much hand gesturing, the elderly woman encourages the men to leave, convincing them that Belsante is not within the walls of the abbey.

Again, the distraught girl must hide among the trees until the men leave. She emerges to see the Abbess waiting for her; a gentle beckoning draws Belsante from the woods. The Abbess’ arms are open, and the weary girl falls into them, weeping.

“His mount threw a shoe. They overtook Theobald before he could escape,” the Abbess says.

“They rode him down like a dog,” Belsante cries, her voice anguished.

“What will you do, my child?”

Belsante lifts her tear-streaked face from the Abbess’ ample bosom.

“Do you know where they have laid my love?”

“His body has been returned to his family. He will be interred in the cemetery of the town where they reside.”

Steel stronger than any blade enters Belsante’s body as she stands before the Abbess, shoulders rigid, head held high.

“I will take holy orders. My life will be given to serve those among whom Theobald lived.”

The Abbess’ eyes look down and away; she knows the impetuousness of young women often fades once the hardships of life in the abbey become apparent. When she looks into Belsante’s face, she observes strength born of loss. The old woman nods her head in agreement.

“Welcome, my child.”

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