Film Reviews Cat

Paths of Glory (1957)


The French army tries to attack the German enemy during the first World War, but this doesn’t go as planned. The result is a military court case against some of the individuals that were deemed responsible for this failure. 

“Paths of Glory” is directed by the famous director Stanly Kubrick, and this is noticeable when you focus on each camera shot. And It is great to see Kubrick direct war scenes. However, the question is how great this film really is. Are we going to consider this movie one of the essential films to watch just because Stanly Kubrick directed it? I think that we are allowed to be critical, even if you can make the argument that for its time (1957) this contained some groundbreaking cinematics. Especially because a film is so much more than only the director and the main actors. The supporting cast is also very important, and at times an amateur extra can ruin a movie. The latter didn’t happen with this film, but there was one big mistake.

The main actors did a good job, and Stanly Kubrick made this into a typical Kubrick film. There are so many great elements within this film that it is easy to classify as one of the greatest films of the last seventy years. However, when you look closely there are a few problems. They might be minor at times, but you can still find them. One example is the extra that is supposed to be dead, but is suddenly blinking his eyes when he hears a loud explosion in the background. They should have shot this specific scene again, but I assume that they only had one more try because of budget limitations. Additionally, some of the supporting cast were acting as if they were on stage in the theater. There is no need for ‘extreme’ hand gestures/movements when you are being filmed with a medium shot. However, the latter is not a big issue, especially not when keeping in mind that it was shot in 1957. Today all actors are aware of these technical details, and there is a clear distinction between film, and theater actors.

The story that “Paths of Glory” is trying to tell is that of a sadistic army general versus an idealistic colonel. The army general is trying to cover up his behavior, and additionally tries to get a bunch of ‘insubordinate’ soldiers executed. The Idealistic colonel has to prevent this from happening. A similar topic can be found in the beginning of this film when a private sees that his superior committed a crime. Therefore, this topic of the ‘evil superior’ versus the righteous lower ranked soldier is the main idea behind this project. The question is why we need to have two independent cases of this. What makes things worse is that both cases don’t show a resolution. It remains open ended. However, what is interesting is that it leaves the audience with the question; what is right/fair, and who considers what the right thing is? It also touches on topics such as war crimes, and individual responsibility. The scene in which multiple individual soldiers refuse a certain command is being presented as heroic, and morally superior. We could argue that this film is showing that an army command is no excuse for committing war crimes. And one still has the individual free choice of action. Yes, there will be negative consequences for you, and you will be court-martialed. However, this is no excuse for taking part in morally wrong action\s. 

All of this seems to be topics which are very relevant for a generation that grew up during, or just after the first, and second World War. I am not saying that it isn’t relevant anymore, but it will become more difficult to fully understand the goal of this film. What I did find disappointing were the last twenty minutes because it felt idealized, and too open-ended. However, it is still a good movie to watch. And if you are a fan of Stanly Kubrick then this movie is essential to watch.

Directed by 

Stanley Kubrick

Writing Credits  

Stanley Kubrick(screenplay) &
Calder Willingham(screenplay) and
Jim Thompson(screenplay)
Humphrey Cobb(based on the novel “Paths of Glory” by)


Kirk DouglasCol. Dax
Ralph MeekerCpl. Philippe Paris
Adolphe MenjouGen. George Broulard
George MacreadyGen. Paul Mireau
Wayne MorrisLt. Roget
Richard AndersonMaj. Saint-Auban

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