The two texts offer readers and viewers different insights into the nature of war. Both texts use very graphic imagery which is disturbing and often macabre to illustrate the confronting reality of war. Annaud utilises visual imagery and music to help create an effectively realistic mise-en-scene throughout the film. Annaud affirms the importance of hope and love whilst demonstrating the brutal political nature of war. In “Fly Away Peter” Malouf constructs characters to show how war affects people. He juxtaposes the violence of war against the calm sanctuary like, home of Jim. Malouf creates powerful scenes which convey how soldiers dealt with the tragedy of the slaughter of fallen comrades and which reveal the fear within each soldier. He also affirms hope and a positive sense of renewal in life which emphasises that the cycle of life continues despite the horrific and unnatural nature of war. The preface by G.K. Chesterton which Malouf uses applies to the intentions of both texts. “We can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.” Both texts explore the way humanity goes “off its head” in times of war. This implies that people in times of war behave in an insane fashion.
The graphic imagery used by each text is compelling and provocative. “Fly Away Peter” demonstrates this when Eric, Clancy and Jim were at base and were about to have lunch. A “Minnie” explodes near them and Malouf comments, “He found out that he was entirely covered in blood – his uniform, his face, his hair – he was drenched in it, it couldn’t all be Eric’s; and if it was his own he must be dead, and this standing up whole an illusion or the beginning of another life.” This description is powerful because it reveals that in war there were no safe places and anything could happen at any time. In “Enemy at the Gates” Annaud similarly shows this when Vassilij, Koulikov and Volodya left the base and Vassilij spots a German sniper. The sniper had his eyes clawed out and had no index finger while still lying there looking like he was still alive. This graphic visual image emphasises the savage nature of war and what people do for money in times of dire need. Both texts rely on brutally realistic moments like those above to illustrate the nature of war.
Annaud uses a range of different music themes to create an appropriate mise-en-scene throughout the film. He utilises sombre music most frequently. This is used most powerfully when the German Major Konig hangs young Sasha Filipov to get Vassilij angry and lose patience to find him. This scene shocks viewers as it implies that in war people will do anything to win. The mood of the music helps develop the anger and sadness to help emphasise this idea. Annaud also intensifies the film’s element of suspense through the use of music. This is evident when Major Konig traps Vassilij behind a broken stove and Vassilij is trying to get his rifle with his pocket knife because the music turns from a slow rhythm to a quick tempo style, which makes the mood tense and suspenseful. Annaud also uses the juxtaposition of sombre themes with up-beat joyful music in certain scenes. This is most effectively used when Vassilij is sitting with Tania in the base while everyone in the sniper squad is drinking
and celebrating being alive. Vassilij says, “All these men here know they are going to die. So, each night when they make it back, it’s a bonus. So, every cup of tea, every cigarette is like a little celebration. You just have to accept that.” This scene demonstrates for viewers that the soldiers know that it is very likely that they will not survive the next day and so when they get back each night, they party and celebrate while they can. Again the music is significant in conveying the despair of the scene
and to cause the viewer to gain insight into the nature of war and how humans respond to its horror.
Annaud affirms the importance of hope and love by having an optimistic ending where Vassilij and Tania meet after the war and live on happily. It is also evident in the sex scene, between Tania and Vassilij at the sniper base. This is powerful because the film demonstrates that people even in war can find love and beauty. The beauty of love is juxtaposed against the horror of the war scenes. It also gives the viewer a sense of hope that people can still be human in the inhuman situations of war. Annaud explores the political inequality of war when Koulikov says, “Nobody gives a shit about the telephone guys.” This is powerful because most of the “telephone guys” were poor citizens. As in most wars Annaud reminds viewers how war often oppresses and exploits the poorest members of society.
Malouf constructs different types of characters to illustrate how war affects people even if they aren’t fighting. This is emphasised when Jim goes out to a pub with Clancy and Eric and Jim ordered Vin Blanc with syrup which was not what he usually drank, this is showed when it says “Jim craved the sweetness. For some reason, up here, he couldn’t get enough of it.” This is a powerful scene because it shows that Jim has changed because of his experience of the harshness of war. Malouf also explores this in Imogen’s description, “Jim, she moaned silently, somewhere deep inside. Jim. Jim. There was in there a mourning woman who rocked eternally back and forth; who would not be seen.” This moment is powerful because it shows that not only soldiers were affected by the war. It was also their family and friends who were affected and changed because of war. Like Annaud, Malouf employs juxtaposition as a device. He contrasts war with the tranquil harmony of the bird sanctuary where Jim worked and lived before the war. He does this to show that a man can get thrown into the savagery of war no matter how peaceful a personality he had before the war.
Malouf creates powerful scenes which convey how soldiers dealt with the tragedy of the slaughter of fallen comrades to examine the psychological fear this instilled in each soldier. This is used in two very powerful scenes, first when Clancy gets blown to smithereens. Malouf says “He tried to cry but no sound came out. He fell to his knees in the dirt and his screams came up without sound as a rush of vomit, and through it all he kept trying to cry out, till at last, after a few bubbly failures, his voice returned.” This is powerful because it shows that the soldiers made friends and became intimate comrades with the guys in their platoon. It also illustrates how painful it was for soldiers to see their mates die. The second powerful scene is when Malouf says, “Wizzer began to quake. His shoulders first, then his jaw. He had drawn himself up into a ball and was rocking back and forth, clenching his fists to his chest.” This is so shocking because it creates a portrait of the fear that devastated soldiers during the war. Malouf’s understanding of the psychological terror caused by exposure to violence is one of his most powerful devices to cause the reader to understand the nature of war. The ending is an affirmation that this insanity in war is only one aspect of life and living. This is also emphasised when Malouf says, “There was a garden in the clearing, neat rows of what looked like potatoes, and figures, dark-backed and slowly moving, were on their knees between the plants, digging. Falling on his knees he began awkwardly to knead the earth, and then to claw at it as
the others were doing. It felt good.” Such moments of normality provide an important sense of relief from the abnormality when humanity goes off its head. The reader is reminded of the natural cycle of life, which continues despite the unnatural quality of war.
Malouf creates a sense of the renewal of life and of hope at the end of the novel. This is evident when Miss Harcourt looks out at the sea and sees a surfer, “He rode rapidly towards her; then, on the crest of the wave, sharply outlined against the sky. She stood there. Fascinated. That too was an image she would hold in her mind.” This is powerful because it shows that life continues despite the brutality of war. Malouf’s preface is “We can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.” This is powerful because it is saying that out of all the species of animals only one has gone insane and that is humans. Malouf’s novel allows us to understand how war by its nature shows humanity “sliding” into an abyss. In Jim’s words “He would slide with the rest. Down into the pit.”
Annaud uses lighting most effectively in the film. Most of the film’s composition is so dark that you can just see the actors’ reactions. At the end of the film however, when Vassilij finds Tania, a bright light illuminates their reunion. This is evocative because, like Fly Away Peter it reinforces the concepts of hope and love in the film. Both texts use journey motifs to emphasise the nature of war, even though each text employs a different type of journey. “Fly Away Peter” has a journey of self discovery. Malouf explores this when Jim realises “If he didn’t go, he decided, he would never understand, when it was over, why his life and everything he had known were so changed, and nobody would be able to tell him.” While “Enemy at the Gates” explores the journey of not just one person, but of three people in the film. It is a journey involving love for a woman and also a journey of love for one’s country which has the protagonists fighting off the invaders. In both texts characters grow and become strong, brave and compassionate, who try to save the lives of their comrades. Again this sense of sacrifice and love for comrades is evident in both texts and is seen as the only positive quality to emerge from the inhumane nature of war.
Each text offers a different insight into the nature of war. Malouf may not have as many ways as film to emphasise the nature of war but yet constructs a very powerful narrative that includes many different insights in its own right. Annaud is able to utilise cinematic techniques to emphasise the nature of war and its consequences and creates a very strong film about the Russian perspective of the Battle of Stalingrad. Both texts caused me as a reader to deliberate about how gruelling it must be for a soldier in any war. Both Malouf and Annaud have given me greater awareness of how sadistic the nature of war really is and yet how men maintain their human virtues.