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Polina Aksamentova

"Paths of Glory"

By: Polina Aksamentova
College Now Course - HUM 1

"Paths of Glory" was a movie that dared to criticize the military, WWI and society. The movie touched on some very serious problems and the director of the movie was afraid to go against the mainstream. "Paths of Glory" did not show war as something romantic and exciting, and did not praise and honor military. Not all men were brave or heroic. It wasn't a piece of propaganda or another Hollywood movie that showed little of distress and reality of the war. "Paths of Glory" is the reflection of the truth. The movie shines light on the abuse of power in military and society's perception of cowardly behavior.

One of the major issues that the movie addresses is the military's abuse of power. There is a striking contrast between the trenches, where the soldiers lived and fought to defend their country and the glorious headquarters of their generals. The building looked more like a museum rather than a military building. The statues and fine furniture is a mockery of the dirt and filth that the soldiers had to live in. The generals ate delicious food, while the combatants ate with rats. The leaders had no idea what it was like to be a real soldier and to them they were nothing but numbers on the battlefield. The generals abused their power and were unsympathetic towards their men. It was startling to hear the general say that losing more than 50% of the men in taking of the anthill was generous. The irony is that earlier he claimed that the lives of men are precious. In pursuit of some promotion he forgot about his men, their lives no longer mattered. This is outrageous and somewhat scary. The average citizen doesn't know much about war in Iraq that is currently taking place. We don't know if our generals are making the right decisions or if they are exchanging their power for personal gain. Society hopes that people like the Colonel are in charge, but we never really know what is happening. People find out about military abuses only during a major scandal that is discovered by the media. In "Paths of Glory" the generals feared that some of their conduct would be known. They cared little about their soldiers and they did not question their actions, yet they made sure the people didn't find out the truth. Kirk Douglas's character is the only one in the move who will not sacrifice his principles for selfish gain. He fought for justice and was not afraid to risk his own position in order to do what's right.

Another important issue addressed by the movie is cowardly behavior. The bravery of the soldiers always amazed me. It is something that is looked down on by society, yet how can you expect soldiers to run in an open field under a heavy fire? How can we expect people to do their patriotic duty and sacrifice their lives for their country? It is the natural impulse of human beings to run away, to seek survival. And what is so wrong with wanting to live? You have to admire the courage of these soldiers, and can you really condemn them if they get scared? The movie is shown through the eyes of the military, and the punishment seems awfully cruel, especially when innocent people are punished and the cowards are not. A clear example of cowardly behavior is that of a commander, who killed one of his men and left the other. This is something the movie and society looks down on, but the rest of the men were not cowards and this is clearly shown. They are human and they shouldn't be judged too harshly. This is a controversial issue that "Paths of Glory" touches on and to examine it is absolutely necessary.

"Paths of Glory" was made to criticize and show the realities of WWI, yet the message can be applied to this day and age. There are still abusive systems and unfair wars where people go to die for no apparent cause and where the honest often do not survive, clearing the way for the deceitful ones and liars.