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  • Shannon Bontrager

An Inverted Odyssey: Homer's Greeks in the First World War, A Film Review of 1917

Sam Mendes’s film, 1917, situates the first world war in the canon of western civilization. Less about history, 1917 seeks to capture the memories of a modern generation. Just as Mendes sought to retell a story he remembered from his childhood, and just as Homer intended to capture the memories of a Greek-speaking world (and not actual events), so 1917 seeks to help us re-imagine black and white landscapes as a complex story of the war and the human spirit in the face of meaninglessness that made the modern world. The story line, the visual imagery, and the one-take film strategy are all designed to produce a visual literature for a modern audience separated from the conflict by a century. The World War 1 epic, 1917, is not just another war film about the trenches of the Great War, it is Sam Mendes’s masterpiece mashup of World War 1 antiwar iconography and a retelling of the Odyssey.

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