CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 18. . . .May 1, 2009
Front Lines is a polished production that provides a brief overview of the Canadian experience of the First World War. The filmmakers create a narrative using real letters written by six soldiers ranging in rank from private through sergeant major, captain and lieutenant colonel, and one nursing sister, plus entries from Sergeant Major Claudius Corneloup's war diary to record the course of the war in seven chapters. The letters and diary are read by professional actors, including Paul Gross, Jean Yoon and Colm Feore. The French language version utilizes the voices of actors such as Paul Savoie and Catherine Trudeau. For visuals, the filmmakers draw upon archival film footage shot in Montreal and in Europe that fits nicely with the narrative, along with still photographs and photographs of the various soldiers and nurse quoted, plus camera shots of the actual letters and envelopes sent to loved ones in Canada.
The first chapter, "Signing Up," describes recruitment, public support for the war and soldiers, and the shipment out of the troops. "England," the second chapter, comments on the extensive training the soldiers received, often lasting nine months. A chapter describing France before reaching the front is brief in comparison to the segment on "The Trenches." The still photographs include a surprisingly domestic scene of soldiers seated at a table with a tablecloth inside a dugout. One can only assume that this was not near the front lines but farther back in the network of trenches. The letters and footage describe the work of snipers and artillery, and the six day rotations that troops faced in the trenches followed by six days in a village-based camp not far away. The soldiers write about "how we look forward to a letter."
Val Ken Lem is the liaison librarian for History, English, and Caribbean Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON, and a member of the Collection Services Team.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.