Leo Amsel is a man haunted by a decision made while serving in France during WW2, some year's later Jorgen offers him the opportunity to atone.
Written By: Alan King
Directed By: Alan King
World War ll continues to be all around us. Just scroll through the catalog of your favorite video or documentary source, or even through regular film and you're sure to find numerous titles or references. Comics, artwork... you name the platform and I can guarantee you'll find something WWll related. A decade ago most people predicted, with sunken hearts, that as the veterans aged out WWll would become a distant memory, with it's lessons watered down and largely forgotten. Now, in present day, we as a culture have made sure this could never happen. To some extent "A Way Back" helps keep these troubled times alive and always in the back of our mind, while at the same time presenting us with a compelling fiction that I almost felt guilty about... because I enjoyed it. Let me be clear however, it was not the subject matter I enjoyed, rather the presentation itself. Should we be ashamed that we are entertained, or maybe even a little obsessed with the Nazi past we've all come to know? I don't think so... for one simple reason: No matter how entertaining the presentation, a simple message still exists that constantly rings true in most of our hearts. How wrong it all was, and maybe... just maybe... the reminder helps keep it from happening again.
Alan King presents to us an entertaining fiction that, when it's all said and done... probably contains much less fiction than we care to believe. I'm pretty sure that at some point, some soldier has been in a similar situation as Mr. King has placed his character; and has lived with his choice for many years. "A Way Back" does not require a huge stretch of imagination to believe, which is why I think it works so well. There's a lot of history conveyed within the 15 minute length that is this film, and much like the ending of "A Way Back", so much more could still be said.
The elements that make the film itself are where things get a little sketchy. This is such a good, smartly written short film that it's almost a shame the way some of it was presented... for me anyhow. Let me lay it all on the table. I am not a fan of hand-held films. For me, something is lost when you watch the camera bounce and shake around. Something that not only screams independent, but sometimes... even maybe a little lazy. Whenever I see the first glimpse of a shaky camera my heart sinks and I expect the worst. There is no movie magic contained within a jittery uneven image. For me, it's simply "phone-fodder", even when the same technique is applied using a good camera. Don't take my statement as a jab towards the style chosen by Mr. King for this particular film; there was nothing seemingly lazy about this title, I was just venting my general thoughts. Regarding "A Way Back", I completely understand the idea behind the lens. Alan King provides a pseudo archive, meant to compliment the story, and on some level pay homage to some classic films. In some ways it works, but it's hard to grasp the style when switching from the office of a Doctor, which is for us present tense, to the unusual workings of the mind... in particular, memories. As I wrote above, this could be based on my own dislike of the hand-held style. Yet, I can't help wonder what "A Way Back" would have played like had the more traditional style been used. It is safe to say however, aside from my personal feelings on camera styles, this flick played the way it was intended. Something both thoughtful and entertaining. It didn't hurt that the acting was great as well. Awkward where it should have been and somewhat unnerving throughout.
Easily, "A Way Back" is a moody artistic piece that is sure to suck you into it's fictional, yet non fictional world. By the end, I was left uncomfortable and off-kilter. Alan King has a knack for storytelling, there is no doubt about that. Would I recommend? Absolutely.
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