"The film is an important link back to Britain, and refers to a period of history that is close to many people’s hearts"
John Chaplin, Chair of the Anglo Swedish Society in Gothenburg.
Marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, Peter Jackson (director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) was given unprecedented access to the Imperial War Museums’ extensive archive, much of it previously unseen. Combining it with audio interviews with servicemen who fought in the conflict he has crafted an extraordinary new film telling the story of life on the front line.
The film will be shown in the UK, as well as other countries around the world. We spoke to the Chair of the Anglo Swedish Society in Gothenburg, John Chaplin, about why he felt it was important for it to be shown in Sweden.
Why it is important to show this film in Sweden?
"Sweden wasn’t an active participant in the Great War, which means that the story of the conflict was – and is - not told in the same way that it might be elsewhere. But neither does the war get the recognition that it does in the rest of Europe. Moreover, although Sweden wasn’t a combatant, it is vital to highlight that it was affected by the war. This was largely due to the trade blockade by Britain’s Royal Navy on neutral countries, which restricted imports and which thereby led to food rationing. Some Swedish people volunteered to join the British, French and American Armies and, at the time, there were popular reports in the press that touched on their experiences.
Much of this history is forgotten now. But showing the film in Sweden could raise some debate about those issues and lead to a deeper understanding of that time."
What you hope the students will get from it?
"Film and video from the British Council or other institutions are an important link between Britain and individual English language schools. Film provides a framework for what is important and what should be dealt with after the viewing, it plays an important role in the educational setting. I anticipate that the film will be used as a teaching device to talk about different issues. Larger political and social lessons can be learnt, for example about conflict, courage, and the social and economic circumstances. It is also important in our contemporary society - where media is integrated in our everyday lives - that the students are encouraged to view film with a critical eye.
"It is the subject, as well as the medium and discussion around the subject, which I feel is important. My hope is that the event will be attended by students at film school as well as the Global Studies department at the University of Gothenburg. With any luck, there will be some important topics of debate that come to the fore following the screening."
What does this film offer to members of the Anglo Swedish Society in Gothenburg?
"The film is an important link back to Britain, and refers to a period of history that is close to many people’s hearts. Many feel very deeply about the First World War and several of the Anglo Swedish Society Members have stories concerning relatives who were there.
"We commemorate Remembrance Day each year at the St Andrew’s English Church, and visit the war graves of both the British and Germans who lost their lives and were buried here. These are mostly sailors from the Battle of Jutland, a naval battle fought over two days by Britain's Royal Navy Grand Fleet against the Imperial German Navy's High Seas Fleet. It beggars belief that more than eight thousand British and German servicemen were killed and twenty-five ships were sunk in such a short space of time. Some of the bodies of those killed were washed up on the west cost of Sweden. These people are not forgotten today. The British Legion is active in Gothenburg and there is a very well supported poppy day tradition. So there is a lot of interest, and rightly so."