Battle Ground (2013)

Battle Ground (2013)

Run time: 95 min
Rating: 4.610
Genres: Action | Drama | War
Director: Johan Earl, Adrian Powers
Johan Earl, Adrian Powers
Stars: Johan Earl, Tim Pocock, Martin Copping
Trivia: Three British soldiers find themselves stranded in No Man’s Land after a failed charge on the German Trenches. Set in France 1916.
When an allied charge on the German lines goes horribly wrong, one man finds himself stranded in No Man’s Land. Reuniting with two other survivors, together they must help each other as they charge into the unknown across the muddy wasteland as the Germans quickly hone in on the desperate trio. Tensions rise between the soldiers as they are surrounded by explosions of grenades with the constant rattle of machine guns in their ears. Time is running out as they make their way back over enemy lines as an impending attack could soon take them out. Written by Lionsgate
Plot Keywords: two word title, independent film
Country: Australia
Release Date: 11 December 2013 (Australia)
Box Office
Budget: AUD 1,500,000 (estimated)
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  1. Post author

    Not perfect, but it's more accurate to what WW1 would have been compared to all of these Americanized "real" war movies, except for one part when the Private is running and is never hit…until he is blown up in the trench. I felt explosions and bullets were real, and I didn't see anyone getting their leg blown off and saying "It's a flesh wound!" Real war is being hit with one bullet, not like these other movies that have multiple bullet wounds and they walk away. The story of the wife, I felt could have been left out, even though it added irony and drama to the typical war theme, but I wanted it to be a war movie only. Also, there could have been more battle scenes perhaps. Dialogue was okay, although it seemed a tack calm for war, truth be told. There were a few cheesy lines.

  2. administrator

    Few films in comparison to the number of those examining other armed human conflicts have provided a look at the hopeless blood soaked, mud clogged trenches of the First World War and fewer still have lent voice to the courage, will and love for their fellow soldiers of the men who followed without question orders which amounted to voluntary mass suicide in a hell scorched land far from the blessed sight of their most beloved.

    Johan Earl and Adrian Powers have in 'Forbidden Ground' crafted the viewer such a window into one of the darkest periods of the 20th century. Their film movingly throws us into the trenches of the British Army and its portrayal of the raging machine of war as it grounds young terrified men into its only product – something much different than they were before, alive or dead. The film seizes the senses and raises tension from scene to scene.

    The plot forwards the stories of two British married couples; the men at war while the women walk trancelike, waiting through the motions of a special hell of their own for word that their spouses still live. The two story lines unfold against the backdrop of their individual struggles for survival and preservation of sanity which tragically become more difficult when their lives intersect. Surrounding them all is the War and distance, time and pain of absence.

    Sergeant Major Arthur Wilkins played by Johan Earl and Corporal Richard Jennings played by Martin Copping are men hardened and desensitized as they are ruined and broken by their years in the maw of combat. Both are fair, natural leaders who care for the men they command, but they've lost their identities, they've forgotten what their lives were like before the War began. Indeed, the surreal daily ballet of carnage their lives have become leaves them with weakening connection to the women they married and eventually sees them becoming brothers in arms trapped in a situation neither will ever completely escape.

    Grace Wilkins, wife of Arthur played by Denai Gracie and Eve Rose, fiancé or wife of Corporal Jennings are the ones their men left behind. Nightmares of Arthur's rejection of her upon his return plague Grace, and for aid with the condition she faces which could hurt her husband more even than the terrors of war, she feverishly seeks aid and finds its only source in Eve. Eve has suffered her man's absence as much as Grace, and in so genuinely needing to aid her causes irrevocable harm.

    The film is a war movie, and it is also a tragic drama which explores the consequences of meetings between average people who find themselves already connected in ways they never could have imagined. The historical accuracy of the period is spot on as are the booming, ground churning scenes of battle of which there are several. For the budget available, the film makers did a great job although the continuity and viewer perception of the size of outdoor spaces sometimes feel askew and not to scale.

    'Forbidden Ground' is a gritty, visceral war film wrapped around a touching story driven by characters with many shades of depth. Their reactions and solutions to the horrible situations they find themselves in is compelling and this viewer found himself only wishing they could get through it all and have the opportunity to heal, together – reunited at last.

    I highly recommend 'Forbidden Ground' to the fan of war films as World War I remains a blemish on history mostly glossed over by popular fiction. The period equipment, weapons and dress on the battlefield and off are well reproduced, and the actors who portray the interesting characters inhabiting this study of the chilling effects of war on its victims – war makes all of us its victims – are worthy of the viewers time and praise. For most every other mature moviegoer the film is also a worthwhile watch: the tragically intersecting fates of these characters will reach you on some level.


  3. Post author

    I watched Forbidden Ground recently and can't recommend this film highly enough. It was emotive and gripping and had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through.

    My only gripe is that this film is marketed as a massive war action film, and while there are numerous battle scenes and action sequences, I would call this film a drama/thriller made in a war setting.

    If you're a military extremist who must have every technical detail 100% accurate in order to enjoy a film set in war, this might not be the film for you. I found the attention to detail was great, sure it has errors and faults, which war film doesn't? I'm no war historian but when you consider the budget for which this was made (reportedly like under half a million) my hat tips to the filmmakers regardless of any perceived military technical errors.

    The way their lives and connecting tales were interwoven was fantastic, and done in a way you rarely find in film these days. Performances were great and I was totally immersed in their world.

    I and my entire family loved this film. If you enjoy film and love watching films that move you, then I highly recommend Forbidden Ground.

  4. Post author

    According to Stuart Hall, Cultural Studies' outlook takes for granted the fact that knowledge in all its forms is always, unavoidably, contextually bound. With this in mind, and given that Cultural Studies is the study of an ever-changing culture, I think that spectators should analyze Forbidden Ground not only as a complex contextual intervention or as a representation/dramatization of certain ideologies and mores within the framework of WW1, but also as a film that thanks to its powerful and emotional leading characters, it gives an in-depth exploration of the human conscience that certainly appeals to present-day audiences.

    Pierre Mackerey in 'A Theory of Literaty Production' (1978) says that 'what is important is what the text does not say'. For this reason, I would like to bring to the fore the symbolic meaning that Forbidden Ground conveys. Actually, silences and close-ups are recurrent throughout the movie to create this dramatic atmosphere. I should first point out that the character of Grace Wilkins (Denai Gracie) is essential to offer an accurate view of women's relegation to the private sphere at the time. From a critical perspective, and as Grace is usually shown in closed spaces, this could be interpreted as a subtle way of underlining the tragic circumstances suffered by some women, especially the ones who due to their impure actions, were considered to threaten patriarchy. In this respect, we should also keep in mind, for example, the long-standing Nature/Culture dichotomy that, according to Sherry Ortner in 'Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?' (1982) or Simone De Beauvoir in 'The Second Sex' (1949), relegates women to being the 'Other' of men. And yet, this view is cleverly reversed in the scene where Sergeant Wilkins (Johan Earl) finally returns to England and kneels on the graveyard. However, a description of this particular scene would reveal too much information and I prefer leaving this task for any avid spectator who really wants to take a look 'beyond the canvas', that is, for those who are eager to explore the psychological aspects of the human being.

    Thus, human connection is more important than any other issue in Forbidden Ground. In this respect, we should pay attention to the soldiers' uniforms and the lack of distinguishing badges or patches that identify them. Director Johan Earl states that he wanted them to symbolize every soldier on the battlefield and not just one unit. And the battlefield itself could be a metaphor of our daily lives too, for life in itself is a roller-coaster, a story within the story, always a constant struggle.

    Forbidden Ground connects with problems that affect most audiences, pointing out the cruel reality and imperfections of those past times but, at the same time, it gives a final message to understand Sergeant Wilkins' physical and mental journey. This said, perhaps it is not coincidental that, in the above mentioned scene, he is shown by a river/lake, for the contact with Nature has always been said to symbolize a new beginning or at least, the chance to be redeemed from past mistakes and start from scratch.

    The whole team and cast that made this movie possible should be praised for their dedication and effort (Adrian Powers did a brilliant job co-directing and editing). But above all, I should say that Johan Earl deserves a special mention. Earl's work as a screenwriter, director and actor is absolutely outstanding and all his artistic decisions only enhance the high quality of the movie. With this in mind, I should conclude by asserting that Forbidden Ground is an excellent film to watch and a good exercise to unveil its hidden meanings. For this reason, it could also be taken to the academic field.

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