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Film review of The Last Valley

 
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Old 13-Dec-2009, 03:52 AM (03:52)     1        34862
Gurdur
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reel Film review of The Last Valley


The Last Valley is quite an old movie (released back in 1970), which doesn't matter here, since one of the purposes of these film reviews here is to alert people to good films they may not know of, no matter whether old or new.

It is quite an excellent if somewhat horrific movie, being set during the Wikipedia link for Thirty Years' War Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648. The actual 2 years the film is set in are apparently 1643 and 1644, one of the main characters commenting in the film that it is 12 years after the Wikipedia link for sack of Magdeburg sack of Magdeburg, that having happened in 1631, the sack of Magdeburg being a famous siege of the Thirty Years' War, where after taking the city, the attackers butchered around 25,000 people out of the city's total population of 30,000. By the end of the war in 1648, only 450 people were living in it --- 1.5% of the original population.

The Thirty Years' War was a ghastly period that saw Germany's population decreased by roundabout 30% or more over those thirty years. Killing, pillaging and the stealing of foodstuffs by soldiers, rape, starvation, typhoid, typhus and the plague were all immediate causes of death. The war was officially about the clash between Protestantism and the Catholic Church, but it turned into land-grabs by expansionist nobles (Wikipedia link for Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, being one of the worst offenders), and was directly fed by the Spanish attempts to reconquer the Netherlands and to fragment France.

It was one of the first true world wars in many ways; if a wider time period is taken into account, the English Civil War can be seen as both part of and partly also the result of the Thirty Years' War. Another result of the catastrophic would result almost 150 years later in the Redcoats in the American War of Independence being Hanoverian soldiers under hire to the British king, but that is a long story and can wait for another thread.

The movie starts with Omar Sharif as a German named Vogel, a former teacher, running for his life in a landscape where peasants are starving, and soldiers deliberately destroy crops and villages, and murder peasants, in order to cause as much devastation to the enemy as possible. But who the enemy is changes day to day for the soldiers, almost all mercenaries who will switch sides easily for pay or for survival, so in the end all peasants become the enemy and the prey for the unpaid soldiers, and the entire country slides into an apocalyptic hell on earth, a hell brought about by religious leaders.

Vogel, in his flight from the pillaging soldiers across the ruined countryside, stumbles over a mountainside into a valley which has till then remained untouched by the war -- a valley with a village that looks like Eden in comparison to everything around it, the last valley left untouched, unpillaged and unburnt. But a company of mercenary soldiers, led by Michael Caine named simply as the Captain, have also come into the village --- and surprising all those involved, slowly a complex and year-long conflict and relationship builds between the villagers, the local rich and grasping landowner, the fanatical Catholic village priest, the mercenaries, and Vogel (who as a former teacher from a city is just as alien to the villagers as he is to the mercenary soldiers). It is not a relationship that cannot survive for a long time given everyone's attitudes, and a final reckoning is on the way, but in an unexpected manner. Salvation, redemption, love, damnation and meaningless and perverted murder are all present, and all the arguments on all sides are well presented. In one scene, Vogel shouts at the Captain,
"Is that your answer to everything? Kill?",
and the Captain replies to Vogel,
"What is your answer? Run?"

In the end Vogel, a humanitarian and a humanist, learns to accept responsibility and to act, and others learn various lessons, some of them barbaric and lethal, their very last lesson. There is a scene of a woman being tortured and then burnt at the stake for being a witch; and it struck me as I watched the film that Christianity has done far more than anything else at all to promote belief in Satan and worship of the Devil. Had not Christian fundamentalists gone on for centuries in hysterics over a mythical Satan while themselves imposing predatory regimes, then many would have never thought of becoming Satanists in an effort to find some supernatural power to deliver them from the horror of their lives under those predatory regimes.

Last edited by Gurdur; 13-Dec-2009 at 04:12 AM (04:12).
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Old 15-Dec-2009, 04:19 PM (16:19)     2        34891
Benkyo
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Sound interesting, though I'm not usually into historical films.

Reading your review I was reminded of No Man's Land for some reason, though I'm sure the films bear little similarity to each other, if any at all. Have you seen it?
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Old 15-Dec-2009, 09:52 PM (21:52)     3        34893
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That's a very compelling review. I'm going to look for it.
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Old 10-Apr-2010, 12:55 PM (12:55)     4        38887
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vincent Film Review Film review of The Last Valley

Sound interesting......Thanks for sharing.Fantastic post. Bookmarked this site and emailed it to a few friends, keep it up.
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