October 5, 2018, at 1:44pm
With 2018 being the centenary of the armistice of World War I, it is a fitting time to tell the story of James and Otto – two young friends whose relationship is torn apart by a senseless war.
The script was inspired by a conversation Gregory had with a close friend Joseph Gassner (LH 05) – a German student who came to the UK for the Sixth Form. It was with some emotion that they discussed how only one hundred years ago, there was a strong possibility that they, along with many of their close friends, would have been killed in a tragic and violent war. Equally poignant was the fact that they would have been on opposites sides due to no other reason than their place of birth.
The film itself is the dramatisation of this dichotomy. We meet James, a witty and athletic boy in his final year of Uppingham School, and Otto, his close friend – the son of a German diplomat. With the increased tension of European relationships, Otto is forced to leave school before the year is finished.
Interspersed between these scenes of the boys enjoying their final year of school, we meet James again in 1917, in the build up to the Battle of Passchendaele. He has become increasingly cynical as he faces the impossible task of preparing his men for the upcoming offensive. Ever-present in his mind is the troubling realisation that his good friend Otto could be a short distance away, preparing his own men to defend their positions.
Gregory was inspired by artists, such as Christopher R. W. Nevinson (SH 1903) and Percy Wyndham Lewis. Musicians such as Vaughan Williams, whose piece Symphony No 3 ‘Pastoral’ was a great influence on Gregory while he wrote the script; films such as Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Paths of Glory’ and, most importantly, the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Roland Leighton (L 1909), with the title itself coming from the first line of Leighton’s poem – ‘Ploegsteert’.
We are hoping that production will be completed in time for the OU Military Lunch on 24th November at Uppingham, to enable us to share the film with OUs in attendance.