Testament of Youth


I believe that violence is sometimes unavoidable. (I support the struggle of the Kurds, for example.) As I grow older, however, I find myself becoming increasingly sympathetic to pacifism. Back in 2003, I watched in amazement and bafflement as supposedly sane people called for an obviously illegal and immoral war against Iraq. Those of us who rightly argued against this were called “traitors”. The current chaos in the Middle East shows we were more right than we even imagined at the time.

To give another example of why my thinking has been moving in this direction, not long after Russia’s illegal seizure of the Crimea, I got into a Facebook argument with a left-wing Putin-hater, who boasted about how much he welcomed a war between Ukraine and Russia. (I hate Putin myself.) When I pointed out the possibility that Ukraine might lose such a war, he ignored me and kept going on about how much he would love see Putin be given a comeuppance. Yes, I would love to see Putin given a comeuppance, but how many innocent people would have to be killed in order to do that?

I think I don’t need to even mention here our society’s complacent and morally corrupt response to Israel’s assault on Gaza last year. History will never forgive us for this.

Testament of Youth, directed by James Kent and written by Juliette Towhidi, is based on the autobiography of Vera Brittain, who became a well-known pacifist. It depicts her experiences as a volunteer nurse in army hospitals during World War I. In the course of the war, her fiance, her brother, and two of her friends were killed. At one point in the war, she served near the front in a hospital treating captured wounded German soldiers. Some of the scenes in the film are wrenching to watch. This film benefits from strong acting, most of all from Alicia Vikander, who plays Vera Brittain. (Vikander, who is Swedish, does an English accent in this film, and she does an American accent in Ex Machina, and she’s completely convincing doing both.)

With all the militarism that currently pervades our society, it’s good to see to some subtle pushback in the form of such films as Good Kill and Testament of Youth. On the other hand, American Sniper was a huge box office hit. We have a long way to go.

2 Responses to “Testament of Youth”

  1. Andrew Coates Says:

    I liked the film, and the book on which it’s based is important.

    British viewers have less than fond memories of Vera Brittain’s daughter Shirley Williams who tried to destroy the Labour Party and helped keep Thatcher in power with the split from Labour – the Social Democratic Party.

    Most people, on the basis of photographs, would not say that the real Vera Brittain was quite as beautiful as Alicia Vikander.

    • The Spanish Prisoner Says:

      She looks beautiful to me. As for Shirley Williams, well, you can’t choose your relatives, can you?

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