Moment of humanity

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Becky Hewlitt on an animation that offers a moving view of young lives at war

War Game DVD Revelation Films pound;12.99

War Game By Michael Foreman Pavilion Books pound;9.99

An animated imagining of a book that's based on a true event, War Game (pictured above) tells the story of a Christmas miracle, set against the horrors of trench warfare in World War I. As Europe slides into war, the boys of Coldfield village play football and dream of glories on the battlefield. Their families are horrified at what they have done but they are soon training and on their way to the Western Front.

The grim reality of life in France hits home as they deal with rats, mud, shelling and homesickness. Just as things are getting worse, Christmas arrives and they are amazed to find the Germans singing carols and kicking a football around. A high-spirited game breaks out and, for a while, human kindness conquers the inhumanity of war.

Life soon returns to normal, however, and the film reaches a bleak conclusion. Beautifully animated and with superb voice-overs, this cartoon certainly brought home the horrors of war.

I showed War Game to a group of Year 9 pupils after a few introductory lessons and before we embarked on independent research. It proved to be very useful as it covered topics such as lads' battalions, peer pressure, trench conditions and the worries of those left back home.

Perhaps this wasn't the wisest choice of film to show a class of teenage girls and a teacher about to embark on maternity leave. The juxtaposition of the light-hearted game with the harrowing fate met by the character Will resulted in stifled sobs from all and sundry and even a few of the boys were surreptitiously hiding trembling lips, especially when I pointed out that the author based the characters on his own uncles, who all died in their twenties. This cartoon was especially useful as it covered most of the areas I wished them to research and it inspired them to think as of war casualties as individuals and not just statistics.

Becky Hewlitt is a part-time history teacher

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