[REVIEW] Dunkirk (2017), Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk is 106 minutes long and consists of approx. 103 minutes of drowning, in such profusion and at so many camera angles that it makes Titanic look like Lawrence of Arabia. Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh, as head civilian and military heroes respectively, leave some impressive pauses, through which Spitfires could be and indeed are flown. Branagh’s general is Henry V in middle age, eyes set to Agincourt, unsubtlety unenhanced by Nolan’s Churchill-by-numbers script. At one point it looks like a plane might land on Branagh’s head, but it doesn’t. I might have felt more charitable if I hadn’t just seen his trailer for Poirot.

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Harry Styles is on the left. Or on the right. Or in the middle.

As Brown-Haired Boy Soldier No. 3, Harry Styles is far more competent than I’d been led to expect: truly, he is the Lillie Langtry of our time. The further cast includes one black soldier, shoved to the front of a single crowd scene as in the brochures of a left-wing private school, before disappearing forever (as in the brochures of same). A nurse has one or two lines about making the men a cup of tea before she gets blown up, which is historically accurate but also typical Christopher Nolan. I caught about 15% of the Spitfire pilots’ dialogue, but thanks to the Enigma-thumping score, I wept copiously at every appropriate moment. What with that and the UEFA Women’s Cup, my jingoistic shallows are more visible than ever.

The film’s dedication, given at the end since the beginning is mainly exposition that sets up the telescopic time-plot – is to all those whose lives were ‘impacted’ by events at Dunkirk. I suspect that some of the generation who remember Dunkirk would be horrified by the verb, not least the Oxford tutor who once censured me for using ‘prioritise’ with the comment ‘You are not writing for the Guardian’. And of course nor is Nolan, not yet.

A friend of mine was cast in Dunkirk, but they cut his scene, so by rights I should pan the thing entirely. However, he’s still in the credits (at which I gladly whooped and applauded), and the cinematography is stunning, so if I went in for stars, Dunkirk would probably get three out of five. However, I should note that since I am in re. David Suchet what Jane Austen was to English history (i.e. partial, prejudiced, and absurd), Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot is already scheduled for minus ten.

 

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Soul-crushing academic feedback: The Collector’s Edition

This is a post about soul-destroying feedback.

Classics of the genre have been floating round my friends for years; the oh-so-appalling comment which had you marvelling at the skill of the cruelty even as tears of pain rushed down your cheeks. A few months ago I canvassed opinion on facebook, intending to post the Greatest Hits here on Clamorous Voice, but then I got approximately four thousand jobs and had to write nine hundred chapters and moved house and went to Grimsby. The first draft of this post was written in a B&B (although which I’m now not sure).

The following are all real comments made by teachers, tutors and supervisors on essays, problem sheets and practical work. I should say that neither of my lovely supervisors (or anyone at my undergrad college) have ever said anything even remotely resembling the horrors after the jump or, well, I wouldn’t be posting this, I’d be gnawing my own hand somewhere, still.

Contributing universities (and drama schools) came from the Europe, the US and Australia! Original contributors are welcome to out themselves in the comments.

Friends and fellow survivors, thank you so much for sharing. Now raise your right hand and promise not to hand this on to your future students….

    The Worst/Most Mythically Terrible/Nearest-To-Heart-Stopping Feedback You Ever Got On Your Essay, Chapter, Acting or Life From An Education Professional (click below for the horror. Slow scrolling is advised).

 

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