Paths of Glory (1957) – The Guts of War

The ending of Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” just hits me harder than anything. It speaks about moral ambiguity inside humans. It speaks about who exactly is the enemy here. At first, we consider that they are not part of our ideology. In fact, everyone is the same. Then, was I wrong here? Who was the bad guy here? Who exactly were we fighting against? Was my human soul still there? About four years after the war in Korea, this film didn’t mention the war in the ginseng country. Taking the WWI setting around 1916, the premise sounds simple. It’s about a general who accuses the soldiers of their cowardice after refusing to attack the enemy in a suicide operation. More or less like that but actually very complex.

Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax and his troops got a duty to attack the German army. However, Dax himself is aware that the mission will fail. He refused to carry out the mission after it was discovered that the mission failed. George Macready as General Paul Mireau must be responsible for the operation. However, he tried to avoid his mistakes and called three Dax colleagues to be executed. This made the three Dax associates a victim of Mireau’s mistakes even though no one had ever known. In an effort to save his friend, Dax realizes a strange thing happened and tries to find out the truth.

“Paths of Glory” is a classic war story from the WWI. This film, besides getting a lot of controversy over the anti-war ideology offered, shows the other side of the war itself. There are no heroes or patriotism here. There is no explosion, the rest, or exaggerated action generic cinematography. More precisely, this film tells the story of how injustice could have happened in an attempt to intervene with your general. Stanley Kubrick, of course, showed a broad scope of chemistry between Mireau and Dax itself. He relies on a lot of long shots and every trademark from the director you can come with.

Kubrick shows the precision and expression of each of the characters. “Paths of Glory” itself is an adaptation of a novel with the same name by Humphrey Cobb. Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax is not a character who does not always show his own fangs to protect his subordinates. Considering the ending of the movie has nothing to do with what it really was but connects something that’s still related to morality in a person. Macready as Mireau is the antagonist in this film. Kubrick shows this figure as an annoying character in this film. His character dehumanizes other characters, he clearly controls the three sacrificed characters to be able to fulfill his ego and mistake.

The final song of the movie was actually sung by Christiane Kubrick who was also the wife of Stanley Kubrick himself. “Paths of Glory” is not a war movie that talks about historical events, conflicts, or patriotism but this is a tragedy and moral ambiguity. Various countries such as France, Germany, and Spain are hard enough to ban this movie. Despite the controversy, Kubrick realized this film with a could-happen background. But, this is one of the underrated Kubrick’s masterpieces, again, with so much style and criticism in it. A powerful moment as well where you can tell and how you want it to not end tragically.

5 out of 5 stars.

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