1917 The Movie – Some Thoughts

Every once in a while I get approached by someone to do a guest post for the blog. It makes me feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside that someone would like to feature on my blog, and plus I’m always happy to give some help to new history bloggers.

Ivi is a women’s history blogger from Ontario, Canada. She has chosen to write a bit of a think piece about her take on 1917, the new World War One period drama from Sam Mendes. Enjoy!

It has been a little over a century since the First World War ended. It’s a shame that the film 1917, directed by Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Dunkirk), did not debut two years ago to mark the date. The film comes out in December of this year (January for the UK) and features Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Scottish hunk Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, The Bodyguard).

According to IMDb, the film is about;

“ Two young British soldiers during the First World War, are given an impossible mission: deliver a message, deep in enemy territory, that will stop their own men, and Blake’s own brother, from walking straight into a deadly trap. “ 

Aside from a masterful soundtrack, the film depicts an array of explosions and tense scenes, including ones within an bombed-out underground trench space. It is a realistic scene, as the First World War was based entirely upon trench warfare. There were a myriad of hazards for the inhabitants of these dug out fortifications, including foot rot, inclimate weather, and disease brought about by rat infestations, lack of ventilation, and close quarters. 

Glorifying War…Again 

1917 will have something for action and war history buffs alike. Well, for the males of the audience that is. It seems that explosions, death, and violence are the three staples of war films. There are no female characters featured in the promos –  no mention of mothers, sisters, wives, sweethearts, daughters, or nieces. One might get the implication that this is strictly a film for males, not females. Did the writers do this on purpose? 

If this is in fact the case, I won’t be viewing it. I write about women’s history,  and I personally would say that films like these might be ‘honouring’ the fallen of both World Wars, but really they’re glamorising war. They’re using history to, once again, praise the work of those that ruin lives and not those who had to keep it together and suffer through horrid circumstances. 

Nothing against Sam Mendes, I applaud his work on Skyfall. I just wonder, why we need to keep making and watching these films (that have been made time and time again) about men – for men – when audiences are becoming far more interested in the lives, and history, of women. Call it the Wonder Woman effect. Thank the Metoo, TimesUp, and Blacklives matter movements. To quote Tom Hardy in an interview ‘…Women’s stories are far more interesting’. Thank you Tommy! 

What I Would Do Differently

If I could change anything about 1917, I would depict the lives of the women who lived during the period. How they’d have dealt with so much death and injuries in their midst. The psychological trauma they (and their husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, nephews, and grandsons) experienced. How life before the war was being destroyed left and right by warfare. Everything from crops, buildings, and livestock, to businesses, and schools were ruined. 

I’m a proud historian (and feminist). Looking to WWII there is a vast array of stories of women in the resistance, in the camps, in the military, in the factories, the ambulance drivers, and helped Jews in their time of need, should have their voices heard on film more often. Why aren’t directors and producers pursuing these types of stories? 


The people who lived through the first war are now dead, and they only have tombstones, Remembrance Day, and history books to remember them by. Yes, films have been made of this era, but not nearly as many as there should be and they’re all primarily about the male narrative. The band of brotherhood. Victory and defeat. I think it’s time Hollywood began to make more films about lives, and lives lost, not so much about explosions and deaths. 

Ivi J. Canadian history graduate alumni, writer, and novice photographer. I’m also a cat mom, virgo, and Orlando Bloom fan. When not writing or snapping photos, I’m enjoying some dark chocolate, tea, and a bloody good British mystery. You can follow me on my history social media account: Instagram: @what_awoman


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