This semantically efficient shot with the characters of Neame’s film is not only a prelude to the plot – a kind of an exposition before “the action” will start, but something like the director’s “introductory statement” about the tragic penchant for (and pathological fixation of our species on) bloody clashes as intrinsic part of human nature and our historical destiny.

We see the three main characters of the film (sitting right in front of us) – the three senior officers of the battalion, who are preparing for war. No, it will not be one of wars of the type which countries (through their political and military leadership’s calculations) and their military forces will act out with optimistic bravery and pride. Ronald Neame’s film is dedicated to the depiction of an intra-battalion war – the one between two colonels – the present battalion commander and a new one, who is expected to appear not later than the next day and who in reality will arrive even earlier.

The officers (obviously, concentrated on the arrival of the new colonel and what it will bring to the life of the battalion and how they should react) are Major Jock Sinclair, the acting colonel (Alec Giunness) – in the center, Capt. Jimmy Cairns, adjutant (Gordon Jackson) – at Jock’s left hand, and Major Charles Scott, second in command (Dennis Price) – at Jock’s right hand.

The point of the shot, it seems, is – how predictable wars are, not necessary in their results, but in behavior of war protagonists, how routinized the nature of human battles and clashes is, and how deeply “extreme fighting” is rooted in archetypal complexes of human psyche.

Looking at colonel Sinclair’s face we are diving into the very psychology of fighting – we see the iron determination to crush the opponent, mobilization of human psychological resources necessary for this task – of human heart and soul, and calculation of the strategy for its realization. We see on Jock’s face, how the whole human emotional palette can be recruited by the human mind for battle. And we are overwhelmed and sometimes subdued by the intensity of existential theater of the reality of the human nature in fight.

Capt. Jimmy Cairns, on the other hand, is rather the rarest exemplar of a military person. He is not a man of fight, but of fairness and justice – more exactly, he is a man of fight for justice, in a world of battlefields where fight for the most part means one thing – elimination of the enemy. Jimmy is a person with… a democratic sensibility right in the midst of an authoritarian social structure. He thinks that various people have to be able to co-exist with and respect one another and he knows how to resolve conflicts reasonably. Jimmy knows how hard he will try to keep justice alive in the very heat of the clash, but he is also aware that he most likely will not succeed.

And, finally, Major Charles Scott, the second in command, a person whose fairness is balanced with loyalty. Charles Scott’s task is, in a way, the most difficult and the most congruent with being a military officer as the ultimate identity of a fighter. In the still above Scott’s moral burden is the heaviest – he has to make the decision/he already made the decision for everyone involved. It’s up to him to finalize the situation. We see him looking at life as if it’s already after the resolution, like people during the war try to see peace which will come after the war. His gaze tells us, that in this moment, when technically everything is still in the future, he has already strategically killed and “buried” the opponent of his friend Jock Sinclair.

The two low ranks we see in the second raw, are piper Adam (Keith Faulkner), to the left, a pettily smart survivalist, and CPL. piper Jan Frazer (John Frazer), to the right – the self-sacrificial knight of loyalty.

Posted July 2014 –   “Tunes of Glory” (1960) by Ronald Neame  by Acting-Out Politics

April, 19 2011 –   Ronald Neame’s “Tunes of Glory” (1960) – The Sunbeams of Military Machismo: The Perverse Beauty of Internalized Militancy by Acting-Out Politics