The Monuments Men
February 8, 2014
I believe in souls and life after death, but I don’t think they have anything to do with church and religion, and everything to do with art in all its forms. That’s where we put our souls.
This is a movie with that exact philosophy, so I was inclined to like it very much. Plus, it feeds in to my still-in-development ideas about how World War II is becoming America’s Middle Earth or Narnia — it’s where we go to have uncynical adventures, where heroes can be heroes without reservation, and where evil is very clearly identified by red armbands and sour expressions.
It’s a good, understated movie with an excellent cast (Bill Murray! John Goodman!), less of a story and more of a slice of this bit of history. (Much like another George Clooney movie, Good Night and Good Luck, which I also really liked.) It has some nice moments (my favorite is probably the ecstatic little gasp of relief Matt Damon’s character lets out when he finds an entire castle filled with missing sculptures) and some really great art. (My other favorite moment was when my friend leaned over to me and said, “It’s okay, that one makes it, I saw it when I was in Bruges.”) So if you like any of these things — history, good actors enjoying their work, the European art world — you should probably see this.
This movie also reminded me of an old Disney movie, The Miracle of the White Stallions, which tells the story of how Colonel Podhajsky rescued the Lipizzan stallions of the Vienna Spanish Riding School from the German invasion and pretty much saved both the Lipizzan breed and the school. It seems like we keep telling stories about World War II not just because of the opportunity to talk about heroism without cynicism, but because there are hundreds upon hundreds, if not thousands, of small stories about people saving things. Other people, whole communities, art, institutions, horses. Saving souls, really.