Art For Art's Sake
Film: The Monuments Men
Cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray
Directed by: George Clooney
Duration: 2 hrs
Rating: * * *
The Monuments Men directed by George Clooney is based on a true story and make no mistake; it is a great story but doesn’t quite translate into film that is in the same league. Is the world’s greatest art worth risking one’s life to save it? During the World War II when the Nazis were on a rampage, a bunch of good men thought it was well worth it.
The veracity of the details may be disputed, but considering this is a film, (there is also an excellent documentary made in 2006, The Rape of Europa) you are willing to overlook the authenticity of the proceedings. After all, these men did exist and helped save a lot of treasured art.
The Train (1964) starring Burt Lancaster had a similar story where the Resistance had to stop and salvage a train carrying precious art to Germany. While that film was an absolute edge of the seat thriller, the flaw with Monuments Men lies with the script which has a bit of action, buddy bonding and the occasional bout of thrill without really digging deep in to any of them.
‘Why the three stars then?’ you might ask. Well, consider the story –as WWII was coming to end, the Nazis were looting or destroying all sorts of precious art and sculptures. Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, you name it they were all stolen and Hitler had a grand design of making a Fuehrer museum.
Enter the art historians and curators, led by the American Lt. Frank Stokes (Clooney) who gets on the scene of action in Europe with his men that has an excellent cast of John Goodman, Billy Murray, Matt Damon and Bob Balaban. Jean Dujardin plays a Frenchman who helps them in their endeavors. Together they help retrieve thousands of prized artworks, which were meant to be purged by the Nazis. Cate Blanchett also plays an important role as the curator of a museum who supports the Resistance and keeps a close eye on the movement of the paintings.
While lots of scenes are sugary, the film succeeds in making the point about how important our art and history is. As Clooney says in the film, if a generation is wiped out, a new generation will come up but if our past culture is destroyed, there is no bringing it back.
The screenplay should have been more terse, most of the time it appears to be skimming the surface as far as the individual stories are concerned. Nevertheless, it serves as a great lesson in history and serves ample food for thought.
Published in The Navhind Times on 23rd Feb 2014