Film Movement – Year 12 Film 9: Valeria Sarmiento’s “Lines of Wellington”

Les Lignes de Wellington-War is boring, and beef wellington sounds mouthwatering delicious. Not sure if any of those conclusions were what these filmmakers had in mind (probably not), but those are the only slightly positive aspects I could pull from this way too long of a stuffy mini series turned feature-length slogfest.

The movie seeks to depict the grim and hellish realities of war during Napoleon’s third invasion of Portugal. However, hindering this vision – aside from the glistening Downey fresh clothing worn by the war-torn soldiers, and distractingly stiff line deliveries exiting the mouths of accomplished actors – is an overreaching need to address the point of views from just about every walk of life; French soldier, Portuguese soldier, British soldier, an elderly villager, a scavenging refugee, a painter, a homeless poor boy, some other soldier, another villager, a heartbroken portuguese man, etc., etc., etc.

There’s simply too many people vying for screen time, and trying to squeeze all of them into a character driven film while not having them come across as shallow broad strokes in an already shallow painting is a feat not easily accomplished. In order to do this one would have to either extend the story into a multi-seasoned BBC soon-to-be-forgotten television drama, or make a shot for shot remake of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s 1998 masterclass film on what an ensemble piece is supposed to look like when done correctly (Boogie Nights anyone?)

But I digress. I’m sure this movie was never supposed to be the second coming of Boogie Nights – that much is obvious. So, maybe then I’m being a bit too harsh in my condonation of all this costume wearing cocky-poo-poo nonsense. Perhaps the multitude of characters were never meant to exist as fully fleshed out individuals at all. That would make my critique of them a misguided and misunderstood one. Could it be that I’ve completely missed the point? Maybe these characters were meant to do nothing more than serve the greater story, which is that of one specific time and one specific battle. Well, if that was the case than I say, nice try, but it’s still more boring than having to read a chapter from a high school history textbook, more unintentionally laughable than The Wicker Man (the 2006 Nicholas Cage version, of course), and definitely nowhere near as good as other films that have successfully placed importance on event over character, in other words, The Thin Red Line and United 93 (just to name the first two that popped into my head) this is not – not even close.

So the questions I have for this movie now are, who does this exist for, and why have I spent this much time and words on something that is so clearly not my cup of coffee. The answers are surprisingly simple. This exists for not me, and I enjoy the act of writing, even when I have nothing nice to say, which isn’t entirely the case here. If you’ll remember, I did say in my opening sentence that beef wellington sounds mouthwatering delicious, and if that isn’t a prose of positivity than I don’t know what is.

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