Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory ★★★★★

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power 
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave
Awaits alike the inevitable hour
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

“A long black coat, I must now wear.
A sorrow great, is what I bear.
A sorrow great and so much more,
My grief it will end nevermore.”

Paths of Glory opens in the throes of bombast and pageantry: a patriotic anthem triumphantly bugling out its pompous tune. Ninety minutes later it’s a different consonance, one that may suggest the stature of song being lowered: a mournful ballad of tragedy and love lost. But after all the injustice and malice we’ve endured in such a short span — all of it, like the three brave common men and very backbones to the war, executed under the guise of that patriotic tune — such a heart-rending melody seems far truer than any grandiose battle anthem. 

There are many things contained within these short ninety minutes: a war film, a courtroom drama, a Shakespearean tragedy. Yet these paths, far from diverging into a fractured collection of individual segments, coalesce into a film that is greater than the sum of its parts. Paths of Glory is an emotionally devastating picture, a furious bite of vicious satire that’s anything but subtle yet too perfect to ignore. You can keep your 2001’s and your Shining’s and your Clockwork Orange’s; this thing is more bold and beautiful than the lot of them. The paths of glory may lead to the grave, but there are other roads yet, roads for far greater men to tread. 

Stanley Kubrick

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