The Art of War
by Gary Kamiya, Salon.com, September 8, 2001
HBO’s massive and bloody miniseries, “Band of Brothers,” attempts the impossible and nearly succeeds.
The history of serious movies about war, from “Paths of Glory” to “Johnny Got His Gun” to “Apocalypse Now” to “Saving Private Ryan,” is a history of attempts to do the impossible: turn the unthinkable into art. The problem, always, is truth. If a work of art about war does not tell the truth, it is obscene — but how can one tell this truth? And what is it, anyway? Is it a former human being who has been turned into pieces of bloody meat by large fragments of metal? Or is it the soaring words of Abraham Lincoln: “That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain …”? Falstaff or Prince Hal? Hideous death or trumpets and brass? What form, what story line, what aesthetic approach can capture war’s nihilistic horror and still contain some larger meaning?