The First World War is all around us this year and our Festival was of course always going to commemorate this event. Our programmes of films covering this war will run over five years, up until 2018, and we will be tackling this crucial conflict on both a theme by theme and country by country basis. Of the films we welcome to our Festival screens this year, England is the country to have output the greatest number—followed by other countries and hence other perspectives.
Two opening themes were chosen for this extended retrospective: the first of these, laughter. As we saw previously in our first Festival last year, laughter is more often than not the weapon of resistance against the horrors and absurdity of war but may equally, as in Shoulder Arms released right at the end of the war, provide a sensitive portrayal of the dreadful conditions of the soldier. In the remaining films, comedy, satire and musical comedy are all genres enlisted to portray and expose, with what is often ferocious humour, the wretchedness, folly, arrogance, egoism—and in a word stupidity—that lead to war.
The second theme is Women Spies in World War 1. A mixture of eroticism and suspense guaranteed: marvellously ambiguous roles, where heroines are torn between duty and emotion, between work and pleasure. Actresses Marlene Dietrich, Marlène Dietrich, Valerie Hobson, Jeanne Moreau and Dita Parllo find their element in such roles, pushing both their taste for action and sex-appeal to the limit under the watchful and often loving eye of legendary directors such as Joseph von Sternberg, George-Wilhem Pabst, Michael Powell and Jean-Louis Richard.