The Monuments Men

Critics had issues with the pacing, the acting, the plot, the Cloonmeister. It’s fair to say that The Monuments Men didn’t get the best of reviews. I actually enjoyed it a lot. The cast is outstanding and to be honest, most of the people in this film I am pretty happy just watching in whatever. I certainly would recommend the film, especially if you are fan Cloonbags other work in this sort of field (Three Kings…). The issue I had with it though in fact might be an issue with society at large. There is a real concerted effort to explain in a philosophical sense, the need for the unusual band of ‘Monuments Men’. If you read the book which brings the story to life with aplomb that the film unfortunately cannot quite match it becomes clear that these people really did believe in the power, and the need for art. The film focuses heavily on the Ghent alter-piece; undeniably this is regarded one of the most significant masterpieces the group saved. However, in placing such emphasis on the mission to track it down the power of every other piece of art they come across is slightly denigrated. Because the film needs a sense of excitement, and an overarching storyline it becomes a requirement that every success is followed by the question ‘but where is the alter-piece?’, prompting not only further searching, but increased urgency. But doesn’t this slightly confuse the very point of the film: that the cultural artefacts which we generate as we go through our lives are integral to our sense of ourselves and our place within the wider milieu. To place such stock in just one piece speaks to a value judgement, is a piece of art regarded as a masterpiece somehow better at fulfilling this role as arbiter of our collective humanity. There is one moment in the film (spoilers) when a single, unknown painting is returned to its rightful place on a wall in a humble family home. The family has long since been lost to the war, but the poignancy of this moment, the returned piece and it’s significance not for a nation, or even a city, but for one family, and eventually the one person who returns it, for me far outweighs the triumphant discovery of the alter-piece at the end of the movie.

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