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5 Cool Facts You Should Know About "1917"

Writer: Casey Chong

 Sam Mendes' "1917" follows a major event during the World War I.
Sam Mendes' "1917" follows a major event during the World War I.

At the time of writing, Sam Mendes' highly-anticipated World War I epic "1917" has already nabbed not one but two huge surprises during the recent Golden Globes awards.

This includes bagging the coveted Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Director, beating heavy favourites such as "Joker" and "The Irishman".

With "1917" currently playing in our cinemas to widespread acclaim, here are 5 cool facts you should know about the movie.

1) It is presented as if shot in one single take.

Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) in a scene from "1917".

In case you didn't realise the way director Sam Mendes chose to present his latest World War I epic, it is a bold cinematic approach – making the shooting seem like just one take. In layman's term, the one-shot approach refers to a single long take that occurs in real-time minus the traditional edits often seen in most movies. Think of it as if you are one of the (unseen) witnesses following the path of two lance corporals' (Dean-Charles Chapman's Blake and George MacKay's Schofield) treacherous journey from the trenches to the no man's land. Interestingly enough, "1917" isn't literally shot in one take, but it is via the magic of clever editing and elaborate camerawork.

2) Shooting "1917" proved to be a difficult challenge

Roger Deakins served as the cinematographer for "1917".

Creating an illusion as if "1917" was shot continuously in a long, single-take is very cool. And believe us, it is, but the process itself wasn't exactly smooth sailing even with veteran English cinematographer Roger Deakins in charge as the director of photography. Deakins, who has been nominated for 14 Oscars before finally winning one for 2018's "Blade Runner 2049", had to endure a series of tricky challenges to get the shot from behind the scenes. For instance, during the movie's climactic scene where George MacKay's Schofield has to run across a battlefield, he has to combine different camera techniques including using a 50-foot Technocrane (telescopic crane) to accomplish the task. A series of long shots were also utilised to be stitched together later in post-production by editor Lee Smith, with the longest take being around 9 minutes. Given the nature of its filmmaking technique, the shots tend to stretch from 20 to an incredible 50 takes, totalling around 65 days of filming.

3) The movie is Sam Mendes' personal film.

Sam Mendes (middle) on the set of "1917".

The story behind "1917", in which Sam Mendes shares co-writing credits alongside Krysty Wilson-Cairns of TV's "Penny Dreadful" fame, is inspired from the director's paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes' own experience in the First World War. According to Sam Mendes, his grandfather joined the British Army in January 1916 at the age of 19 when he left the Caribbean Island of Trinidad for England. He first served with the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade before gradually sent to the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium. His grandfather's true-story account can be found in his memoirs titled "The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991". Even though the script for "1917" is largely fictional, Mendes still retains his grandfather's true story as the fundamental basis.

4) The two lance corporal characters are actually fictional too

Lance Corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) in a scene from "1917".

Despite the movie is inspired by Sam Mendes' grandfather, the two main characters played by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay are not based on real people. Instead, both of the characters are more of a loose reinterpretation of Alfred Mendes' own experience during the First World War. And yet, Mendes does a great job with his two fictional major characters as if they are real-life soldiers going through the extraordinary ordeals of war.

5) Tom Holland was originally to star in "1917"

Tom Holland was set to play the lead role in "1917" but was unable to do so.

At one point, "1917" was going to bank on a familiar name. That name in question was Tom Holland, best known for his iconic role in MCU's "Spider-Man" movies. It was way back in September 2018 when his name first got attached to the movie to play Lance Corporal Blake, but was forced to back out due to scheduling conflicts. The role of course, eventually went to Dean-Charles Chapman, whose most distinguished credit thus far was playing Tommen Baratheon in TV's "Game Of Thrones".

Cinema Online, 20 January 2020

Related Movies:
1917 (10 Jan 2020)

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