Movies and novels commemorate the First World War

FIRST WORLD WAR: A scene from the film Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif. Photo: Columbia Pictures
FIRST WORLD WAR: A scene from the film Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif. Photo: Columbia Pictures Columbia Pictures

TO MARK this week's centennial commemorations of the start of the First World War the NewsMail takes a look at some of the most memorable films and novels set during the Great War.

For many of us, watching these films and reading these novels offer us the briefest of glimpses into what it must have been like for those brave young men and women.

Paths of Glory 1957

Adapted from a 1935 novel by Herbert Cobb, the plot revolves around a French general (George Macready) who orders his men on a suicide mission and when they refuse, orders them to be executed.

Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) is the voice of reason and attempts to defend these men.

This is arguably one of Stanley Kubrick's best films.

Lawrence of Arabia 1962

David Lean's epic film- with a running time of 216 minutes - about the controversial British military figure Thomas Edward Lawrence (played with endless charm by Peter O'Toole) won seven Oscars and made a star out of O'Toole.

The film opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident in Dorset at the age of 46, then flashbacks to describe his adventures as a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916.

Other notable films include The African Queen, War Horse, Gallipoli and Wings.


Birdsong 1993

Published to critical acclaim in 1993, Sebastian Faulks novel is a sweeping historical saga with an intense romanticism that permeates the entire story.

Stephen Wraysford, an Englishman, arrives in Amiens in northern France in 1910 and has an affair with an unhappy married woman named Isabelle Azaire.

As war erupts the relationship ends but young Stephen carries it with him into the trenches and beyond.

While the romance holds the multi-generational story together, Faulks' detailed description of war makes the reader acutely aware of every bullet and drop of blood.

A Farewell to Arms 1929

In 1918 writer Ernest Hemingway went to war and from his experiences came this unforgettable best-selling novel.

The semi-autobiographical tale is about Frederic Henry who, after failing to be accepted by the American army, joins the war as a volunteer ambulance driver for the Italians.

Other notable novels include All Quiet on the Western Front, A Long Long Way.

Topics:  first world war movies novels

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