Friday, 17 January 2014

History through film!

As soon as we got back from the cinema yesterday my son got out his ipad and began to google Burma and the Death Railway. We had been to see The Railway Man Man and I have to say it is one of those films that left an indelible imprint in my mind. The last film I went to like that was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. When the film ended the audience didn't just get up as they normally would, but sat in stunned silence for a while coming to terms with what they had seen and trying to understand how, in the middle of war, human beings can be so 'inhumane' .But the film also showed how humans have the ability to overcome hatred and fear through forgiveness,

It certainly isn't a film for young children. It is certified 15 but I would still consider that for some it would be too traumatic.One of the traits of Aspergers however (at least in the case of my son) is the ability to separate his emotions from fact.Some would call it a lack of empathy but it is rather an ability to distance himself from the personalities involved and to look at the facts objectively rather than the inability to understand the sadness and hurt caused to people in times of war.

As I watched my son researching the role of the Japanese in the second world war I realised that that was the difference between a home educated child and a main stream 'spoon fed' child. That afternoon in the cinema had been a history lesson on the treatment of the British by the Japanese in Burma during the second world war and my son wanted to discover the facts, the film (which may not be fully historically accurate) had just wetted his appetite!

What my son did pick up (and I didn't) was that the railway was built next to the River Kwai and my job this morning has been to order The Bridge on the River Kwai at my son's request.

What else did we get from the film- well a glimpse I suppose that Eric Lomax  * the British prisoner of war upon which the film is based may have had Aspergers- he certainly had an obsession with Railway lines- how else would he have been able to memorise train timetables, carry around Bradshaw's directory and been able to identify where the cattle trucks had taken them when they were transported to Burma.

It also showed the terrible mental after effects of war.We would no doubt call it post traumatic stress disorder today. The in-hospital conditions in Burma - the reason why the British Empire failed to complete the railways line.

In the credits at the end of the film it said that the Japanese officer Nagase had died in 2010 and Eric Lomax had died in 2012, shortly before the film was complete.I then remembered watching a documentary "Enemy my Friend" about them both being reconciled.

So much learned (and no doubt remembered) from a two hour lesson at the cinema and yet we have only just scratched the surface!

* Some of the description of the brutality suffered by Lomax in this link to The Telegraph article are distressing .

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