For somebody, war is few air-raid alarms during several years. For somebody else, war is years of hiding in a shelter, or even cellars because there is no place in shelters, and leaving the shelter is life threatening, because city is exposed to all day long gunshots or bombing from the other side of river.
But, no matter if living in the middle of battlefield or somewhere far from it, war inevitably changes lives of all people, making them all victims.
We can't blame Australians for having no real war activities on their territory (we can maybe only envy them). And we have to give appreciation to authors who didn't make a typical war movie, who didn't fill it with soldiers and weapons, but shown how the war can touch people who looking from distance don't seem to be affected by war at all.
There is something in spirit of the movie that remind us on Weir's "Picnic at Hanging Rock". It is not the same time, not the same part of country, there is no war in "Picnic", but there is something that discretely tells us that it is the same culture, same soul. It is like comparing Boorman's war coming-to-age drama "Hope and Glory" and movies that show same surroundings in times of peace, coming-to-age dramas from suburbs and old fashioned schools like "Kes" or "Ratcatcher".
It is the character (Emma) who is so similar to girls in Weir's movie, it is the school, it is nature; it is also film's rhythm and photography... add some mysticism to "Emma's War" and it could look as if made by same authors.
But, while in "Picnic" the girls disappear, in "Emma's War" it is life that disappears, it is childhood that has to go away though at Emma's age it would leave soon anyway, war made it vanish in a moment. Yes, we can wish that Anna Frank had no more problems in war than Emma, and that her final fate was no worse than Emma's, but during their war years their problems were similar, their abrupt cutting off ordinary life, their accelerated growing up show that, though the level of real jeopardy can't be compared at all, the human soul passes the same paths and tunnels, hopes and despairs, challenges and compromises.
So, the movie tells us that no matter if Emma lived in Australia or Rwanda, Vukovar or Manchester, Sankt Petersburg or Vladivostok, war would terminate her childhood, ruin her teenage years and leave scars forever.
Lee Remick's character, Penelope in temptations, should have been either given more screen time and better developed, or made just a supporting role. Both due to screenplay and Remick's great acting, Emma's mother Anne becomes the most interesting character, but rather neglected in second part of the movie (Australians are, unlike French, Canadian or Scandinavian directors, more successful in portraying adults than kids and teenagers). If the movie was a bit longer (as it is quite short, 10 minutes more wouldn't make anybody feel bored) we could have seen Anne as a complete personality. But, on the other hand, this movie is "Emma's War", and Lee would have probably transformed it to Anne's war...
But, being Emma's war, it is a real coming-to-age movie, one that would French make with more eroticism, Czechs with more humor, Italians with more noise, Americans... well, Americans probably couldn't make it at all. However, this is Australian movie, the one that only Australians could make. And that is a very, very good recommendation for it.
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