‘Journeys End’ by R. C Sherriff was written in 1928, 10 years after the war was over. Therefore the writer is reflecting on what happened in the war, and the feelings and emotions he expresses might be different to the emotions felt at the time. At some points in the play certain characters express anger at what is happening. For example at one point the character Trotter exclaims, “It’s sheer murder! ” This is the writer’s way of expressing the way he feels when he is reflecting upon things that happened. The book is in a way a testament to the dead, a dedication to the memory of unsung heroes.
The ‘missing scene’ from the film was not included in the original play. This is due to the physical restrictions and limitations when acting on the stage. It would have been utterly impossible at the time to stage an action scene like this. Because the missing scene is an action scene the audience will have certain expectations of what the scene will be like. They would expect it to be quite short and fast-paced with little dialogue. They would also expect there to be lots of action and special effects to be used. At the beginning of the scene the camera uses lots of close-up shots to show the expressions on peoples’ faces.
It does this to show the fear and anxiety of the soldiers before the raid. This is the only point in the film where much attention is given to the privates. Even so the camera only points at each one for about a second- just long enough to capture the emotion on each one’s face. In No-Mans Land, the camera is always changing position. Sometimes it follows behind the troop; sometimes it leads in front. Both high level and low level shots are used. A high level shot is used when they cross into the German trench, this is to show they are powerful at this point.
A low level shot is used when they are crouching behind a tank; this is to show that they are weak and vulnerable. I think that the reason for the variety in camera shots and angles is to add interest to the scene, as it would be very boring visually if the camera stayed in one place. It also emphasises the fact that it is an action scene. The editing patterns used in this scene are different to the rest of the film. The director uses mostly fast editing for this scene, which emphasises the fact that it is an action scene because events take place faster than they normally would.
However at some points slower editing is used. For instance there is one shot when a German soldier is captured, the camera focuses on his face for a short time, this enables viewers to see his fear and anxiety. Therefore slow editing is used to show emotions. Although the scene is just three minutes long there is one shot of Raleigh’s face just as Osborne is killed that last for more than three seconds. This is because it is a very important moment as Osborne is a key character in the play and his death may influence the rest of the story.
Therefore, Raleigh’s reaction and expression are important as it gives the audience the time to think about what has just happened. When Osbourn dies Raleigh is so shocked that he cannot even move. One of the Privates says, “Come on Sir” and drags Raleigh away narrowly escaping a falling shell. This would have been a very bold thing for a soldier to take command over an officer, however the soldier would probably have been far more experienced than Raleigh would although he was in charge. It highlights the social difference between the soldiers and the privates.
The first time that the audience sees the enemy is when a German boy is hauled from the trenches. His expression shows fear and anxiety, and he looks bewildered. This proves to the audience that the enemy is just the same as our soldiers- frightened and scared. Lots of the images used in this scene are very symbolic. The colours used in No-man’s Land are very dull and drab, colours like – dark browns, greys and greens. The privates’ uniforms blend with these colours, as their uniform is dark green. The only colour that stands out from the rest is the white colour of the officers’ trousers.
This symbolises the fact that the officers stand out from the rest of the soldiers as they have a higher social status. This creates social contrast between them and the rest of the soldiers. It also helps the audience to track the officers’ progress. One image that the camera focuses on is the barbed wire surrounding the trenches. It creates a very stark bleak picture against the grey/white background. When the soldiers are in the trench it is a barrier that protects them from the enemy, however when they are in no-mans land the wire becomes a barrier preventing them from getting back to safety.
I think this image is used as it is unnatural and suggests death and imprisonment. The barbed wire also separates the audience from the actors, and suggests that the audience is in the trench with the other soldiers looking out onto No-Mans Land. Another powerful image that is used is the bare trees in No-Mans Land. The trees are stripped of bark and completely lifeless. This signifies that nature is dead and all life is gone and therefore that they too will soon die. However, the most important and symbolic image is shown just before the silence is broken and the music and action begin.
The image is of pieces of wood, but as the camera focuses in you realise that the wood is actually made into crucifixes. This is hugely symbolic of Jesus’ sacrifice and how the soldiers are sacrificing their lives for their country and of the duty which is expected of them. The sound and music used greatly enhances the scene and creates tension. When the soldiers first cross into no-mans land it is eerily quiet. The only sounds are natural ones such as scrunching, breathing and footsteps. This creates tension as the audience is waiting for something to happen.
The director does this to put the audience on edge, as they don’t know what will happen next. At one point in the scene there is the loud noise of guns and explosions and then there is deadly silence. This creates contrast as it is a very sudden change in noise levels. It makes the audience unsure of what is going on, and adds to the drama and horror of the scene. When the music plays it gets louder and louder so that it builds up the tension, because the audience knows that something is about to happen. It reaches a crescendo, as the shell hits Osbourn- and then it stops abruptly and all is silent- the audience then knows that he is dead.
In this way the music re-creates the end of his life. His life gets more and more tense and then suddenly the shell hits him and he dies immediately. At the start the music uses lots of trumpets and drums and is very military sounding music- this connotes action. Then the music turns sad, more like a funeral march as it is played in the minor key- which connotes death. There is little dialogue in the scene this enforces the idea of an action scene, as there is no time to talk. The words used are all short commands- this enforces the military style of speech.
One of the special effects used is a smoke bomb. The smoke covers the entire screen. This gives the audience an idea of the loneliness and vulnerability that the soldiers would have felt when they were in No-mans Land because they are separated and isolated, and because they can’t see the dangers that await them. Just before Osborn is killed there is a shot of him going to help an injured soldier, this means that he dies as a hero. This makes his death even more upsetting as it may have been preventable had he not gone to help someone else.
Although the death of so many soldiers seems horrific to a modern-day audience, it would not have seemed so bad to an audience at the time as it was expected that a soldier would stay in the trenches until he died in action. The life expectancy of an officer in the trenches was only six months. The director would have to take this into account when televising an original play for a modern audience. I feel that the play appeals to all audiences, both the original and modern day because people can relate to the characters and understand their feelings even if they do not have first hand experience of the war.
I think that when all devices of the scene are put together, it creates a very tense and moving drama. When one element is taken out it does not work nearly so well, for instance the scene with no sound at all is nowhere near as effective. This is because although in some parts of the scene there is complete silence, this contrasts with the loud music in other parts of the scene. If there was no sound at all there would be no contrast so the scene would be less interesting.
Without colour the scene would seem very lifeless because although most of the colours are dull and bland this gives contrast to bright colours like the officers trousers and makes the audience focus on the images rather than the colour. The director has managed to adapt an old fashioned play into a gripping drama suitable for a modern audience of most ages- by using music, special effects and symbolic images. I enjoyed watching this scene and I found it tense and really dramatic. I feel that the director has produced a scene that captures the audience and compels them to watch further.