In my experience there are two main types of war movie: the grim and the gung-ho. I find it hard to think of a gung-ho war movie that I have enjoyed, so it’s lucky for me that The Red and the White is very much on the grim side.
If you think of a war film that has been shot pretty much in real time, where the character swap in and out and pretty much none of them survive for longer than 15 minutes let alone the whole movie. In terms of other films that I have seen, I would liken the filming style to Russian Ark but with a greater cinematic scope.
There are a number of beautifully executed wide-angled shots, which only goes to emphasise the bleakness of both war and the surroundings. There is a particular scene in the forest where army forces take a number of nurses from the local hospital and make them waltz… just as a display of power.
Very quickly in this movie you realise that you cannot can attached get attached to any particular character. Sometimes this works out ‘well’, like the execution of an officer by his superiors after he tries to rape a civilian. However, this tension of knowing that a substantial number of people you meet are going to die means that certain fears like ‘please do not kill the nurses’ run through your head.
The main thing that made me appreciate this movie is the confusion. As someone who knows next to nothing about the aftermath of the October Revolution I was in a good position to watch this film. This movie wants you to be confused. It wants you to find it difficult to discern which side is which. Both sides are vile and sadistic in their actions. One side (the Whites) are, on average, the less shitty side, but they are both pretty monstrous.
Considering the times we are living in, films like this have become all the more relevant. I don’t know anyone who has seen this – which is a pity.