5.0, Europe

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp by Powell & Pressburger is the yearly favorite from 1943 as listed in Life as Fiction (Through Time): An Exercise in the Clockwork and Constriction of Cinematic History, a project to chronicle my favorite film from each year since 1921.

1943 / Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger > Why on earth would Winston Churchill want to negate the existence of a film about a gregarious British soldier who believes in the good fight and the love of a beautiful woman? Made at the height of the Nazi threat, The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp is a masterpiece chronicling forty-plus years in the life of Clive Candy, who we first meet after the unbeknownst-to-him British atrocities in the Boer War. This is a man whose military morals guffaw in disgust at the Germans and their war tactics. This is a man who believes the most important outcome of World War I was proof that the “good guys” could win. Much to Churchill’s annoyance, Powell & Pressburger question the gentlemen’s rules of warfare underneath the veil of a romantic epic. Does one stoop to the level of the Nazis in order to defeat them? What lengths would one go to in making sure that that Hitler was stopped before altering the world as we know it?

Roger Livesay’s performance as Candy is as joyful as it is tragic. It takes a while to get past all the sweetness on the screen before realizing Candy represents a great class of man, but one who may be completely outdated in today’s society. He loves and laments, but never is he anything short of a gentleman. His principles are strong, though it’s inevitable to pinpoint the naivety of his purposeful ignorance. Colonel Blimp may also be, most importantly, a reminder of how critical a time it was for our world at the height of Hitler’s regime. It affected how we approached and appreciated love, life and warfare. And now, nearly seventy years later, the film is equally as relevant in readjusting mindsets that blindly champion the goodness of the West vs. the evils of elsewhere.