Once upon a time, long, long ago (about thirty odd years or so) I watched a war movie. I was a young and impressionable teen, just beginning to learn about the world of boys and love. The movie was "Summer of my German Soldier". I remember it with astounding clarity, even though I watched it only once. I remember, too, that I sobbed my aching little heart out at the end of it and vowed never to watch another war movie again. It affected me tremendously and I have never broken that vow. I was as heartbroken as the girl (Patty) in the movie with the death of a young romance, but I was even more destroyed by the bitter and vile atrocities that man wrought against man in the name of war and, ridiculously, in the name of peace.
Around the same time, I read the book by Sarah Patterson (daughter of the famous Jack Higgins), called "The Distant Summer", about a teenage girl and the effect World War II has on her life. I adored this book and read it over and over again. How could this be? How could I read this book about war when I had sworn off war stories?
The truth of the matter is this: When you read a book, you can distil the images, temper them to fit in with how much you are willing to take. Your own imagination can be controlled. This is not so when you watch a movie. The images are 'in your face' and there is no hiding from them. They are vicious and cruel and your mind has no protection from what your eyes are seeing.
Now, my way of doing things may be a little ostrich like, i.e. head in the sand, but I watch movies and read books to escape and enjoy myself. I still avoid war movies and "The Distant Summer" is the only war book I have ever read (I think it was because it was so brilliantly written that I loved it so much). I have never seen any of the famous Oscar winners, like "Saving Private Ryan" or "Inglorius Bastards", much to the dismay of my husband. He has, however learnt, that when he watches a war movie, I take myself off to the opposite end of the house and watch a comedy-romance. To me, war movies are akin to horror movies, but even worse, because a horror movie is usually somewhat unbelievable and you can laugh (albeit a little nervously) when someone gets off-ed quite gruesomely, but there is no laughing at the reality of war.
I am, and will always be, faithful to the happy ending. I can see no happy ending in war (or start or middle, for that matter) and so I avoid it, in whatever format it may be presented to me. I remain unashamedly romantic and there is no romance in war. Robert Burns had the right of it when he wrote :
"Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn! "