DUNKIRK: THE MOVIE VS REALITY By Zil Shah from CWC College of Law
The much-talked-about movie revolves around a series of events that shaped what was then profoundly known as the ‘The Miracle of Dunkirk’. While the movie is based on an unbelievable mass evacuation of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, very little is actually spoken about the battle fought there, one which was essentially lost by the Allied forces and led to France being lost to the German Empire before eventually being liberated with the help of US intervention four years later.
The Christopher Nolan film describes what was known to be the only silver lining of the horrendous defeat that the British army faced against its Nazi counterparts. While the movie title itself makes it more than convincing that the story is about nothing but the miraculous effort and small boat evacuation that led to the recovery of close to 3,38,000 soldiers of the British and French army, a lot of the screenplay and characters were changed, in order to, what Nolan believes, “convey to the audience the greater truth of something”. The addition of fictional characters facilitates the ability to depict the broader picture without strictly and theoretically sticking to the actions of anyone actually involved in the historic battle. As Nolan rightly points out, the movie is not an attempt to narrate anyone’s story. This explains the inclusion of Commander Bolton, a fictional character, who gives a lot of information about the battle in the movie. Bolton's duties in the film include the role of pier master, who oversees boarding soldiers onto water vessels. During the true battle, James Campbell Clouston handled that task. Other than the characters, the movie also includes minor changes such as the make, shape and color of the airplanes and boats such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 planes.
The movie is most definitely an applaud-worthy effort to recreate and visually depict the events that unfolded at the coastal Frenchtown of Dunkirk, but the actual chain of events before and after this massive evacuation are even more astounding!
Continuing its sweepstake through the mid-forties, the Germans slowly but firmly pushed the British troops to the northern coasts of France. However, knowing that they had the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) cornered, the Germans then proceeded to execute a stay on the tanks moving in the direction of Dunkirk in order to let the Luftwaffe (the air force) take over. Why? There are many theories behind this move, some of them being questioned and argued to this date, but it is majorly believed that this was either done in order to capture the British soldiers so that they could be held as prisoners instead of killing them all or that this was an ill-fated move by Hitler to ‘save’ the German tanks for other major battles, considering the battle of Dunkirk was already at its last stage and was presumed to be won. What this stay of attack did, is eventually known to have altered history. As the RAF battled the Luftwaffe in the skies above, and with German dive-bombers targeting the Royal Navy ships trying to evacuate the starving soldiers, hundreds of civilians set sail to the French town to help with the relief effort. What was initially seen by the Germans, as a laughable last-ditch attempt to save a defeated army became one of the most heroic and unexpected victories in modern military history! When the Germans caught wind of the Dynamo plan, Hitler rescinded the ill-advised halt order, but it was too late. Over the course of the next eleven days, British forces were able to safely recover about 3,38,000 men.
The Battle of Dunkirk allowed Winston Churchill to spin utter failure into a reassurance that victory was inevitable and imminent, though it would ultimately take years for France to be liberated.
The Nazi invasion of France could have plunged Europe into eternal despair, but “The Miracle at Dunkirk” was the ray of light, which rallied the Allies and ultimately kept them afloat for the rest of the war. As the tagline for the film states, Dunkirk truly was “the event that shaped our world.”
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