Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory ★★★★★

1.

It's always been aggrivating to me that Dax doesn't come up with a better defense than he does - last time I saw this I figured that he may be less of a moral beacon than one may assume, but I think maybe that's besides the point. PATHS OF GLORY is a sociological movie first and foremost, a study in power. Dax doesn't need to put up a better defense because the movie isn't about morality or the question of the death penalty - just like Kieslowski would later (in A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING) Kubrick cuts forward after the trial to the proceedings of the execution, because, really, there is no trial. The men condemned to death are condemned to death - this is the film's macro-illustration of power. The micro-levels are all about how we act, what appearances we put on, what the sociological interplay is, within this power-structure (the military system here, but it could apply for any institution where people work and interact for a common goal). Shame, guilt, neuroticism, compassion and ignorance, these emotional displays remind us that we're human, even though we're stuck in the cruel and often absurd mechanics of social order.

2.

On a completely other note, I wonder why we so rarely speak of Kubrick the screenwriter. If you look at his dialog, you'll find that people in his movies speak a lot like he did - precise, pretty free of poetry and somewhat over-explanatory. I find an amusing similarity between him and M. Night Shyamalan (whom I also love, for similar reasons) but his writing is regularily maligned and called tin-eared.

It's those little, unnatural details, like when the corpral and the drunken officer line up charges to each other - ("How do you think those charges are gonna look on paper?" - "Not half as bad as these: X, Y, Z") - whereafter the officer delivers the line "It's my word against yours" with the unironically added clarifier "you know".

I can also easily imagine a Shyamalan war-movie with this piece of dialog:

"Which would you rather be done in by, a bayonet or a machine gun?"

"A machine-gun, naturally."

"Naturally. That's just my point! They're both pieces of steel ripping into your guts, only the machine-gun is quicker, cleaner and less painful, isn't it?"

"What does that prove?"

"That proves that most of us are more afraid of getting hurt than of getting killed! ... The tail is just meat, but the head is all bone!"

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