‘Tales From The Great War’ is writer Elias’ second feature length film, following his 2018 release ‘The Numbers’. Both films deftly intertwine the stories of multiple characters and their inevitable crossing of paths, bringing forward a certain recurring theme for Elias: the power of fate.
His latest release opens with a powerful close up of the character ‘Old Dice’ (played by Andrew Elias), a British soldier choosing 4 volunteers to go on a mission and what follows is a series of ominous events that serve to eventually bring these soldiers together. Through multiple bizarre events that each soldier faces, they are left thrown in the ditches of war together and facing what destiny had written for them. After a clean black and white title sequence weaving through the low burrows of trenches accompanied by the instantly recognisable bangs of military drums – the setting is clear. However, a flash back to the first chapter ‘Old Dice’s Story’ (as titled in the film) suggests something more, an eerie soundtrack alongside a distinctive point of view shot of the beast (think Predator), reveals to us an enemy more fierce than the Germans themselves.
Jumping between the early years of the 20th century, the film lends itself to an experimental use of a back and forth narrative and title screens split the film up into its three chapters all of which contain ambiguous and unorthodox characters and screenplay. One of particular note is Pearl, played by actress Tessa Wood, a mysterious guide who suspiciously creeps up on numerous occasions tempting the gentlemen to join the British army, perhaps at the behest of someone or something bigger than we can imagine. The opening tale of the chapter ‘Strange Growths’ offers a short animation with a voice over, during which we are told of a story between a boy and a captivating book, this is closely followed by a warning about the Devil. It is at this point that perhaps the ‘Tales of The Great War’ edges us further towards a dark and otherworldly direction.
It is the final chapter of the film where everything begins to come together, the characters finally cross paths and all hell breaks loose on the battlefield – quite literally. With a cameo from the Devil himself the audience is left slightly bemused by the antics that have taken place between the characters, but without a doubt you are left feeling pleasantly entertained by the commotion.
As revealed by Elias himself, the coming together of these tales was during a time where he was suffering with health issues alongside the unavoidable global pandemic. As quoted “Tales from the Great War is a combination of bed rest, oramorph, and ideas that I had wanted to incorporate into a film for some years”, perhaps this unplanned yet fortuitous experience allowed for the Christopher Nolanesque narrative structure and the formation of the spectral and uncanny ‘Tales From The Great War’.
‘Tales of the Great War’ will be screening at Hastings Rocks International Film Festival on the 14th of April at 7:00pm