Every event in the history of the world has created stories, from the earliest etchings on the walls of caves to the testimonies of people who have survived a brutal war. Whatever happens, no matter how large or small, happy or sad, peaceful or brutal, it comes with a tale to tell and it is thanks to projects like this that some of these crucial stories are not forgotten or overlooked. Last Words: The Battle for Arnhem Bridge tells the story of The Battle of Arnhem, a Second World War operation that saw Allied forces sent into German-occupied Dutch territory to seize eight bridges. However, what was intended to be less of an uphill battle in the latter years of the war became an overwhelming fight as less than 20% of the 10,000 troops dropped returned. The people, who lived through this difficult and tragic conflict, share their stories.
From the very beginning it is clear that Roger Chapman’s film (barely over an hour in length) is intended as an archive of these brave and inspiring individuals. The technicalities of the conflict are skimmed over to allow the real people involved to tell the story as they saw and experienced it 70 years ago. This does mean that those interested in a fully rounded history of ‘Operation Market Garden’ and the many issues surrounding it, may need to dig a bit deeper but the honest, heart-breaking and emotional testimonies of the people involved are a demanding reason to watch and listen to this powerfully told documentary. Incorporating feeling, fear and even the odd light touch into their stories, these veteran voices are wonderful to behold.
Last Words intercuts these brave men and women’s tales of horror and conflict with some additional information and more impactfully some archive black and white photography that is occasionally truly haunting. This is a very honest documentary about a battle that many may not immediately discuss when the events of World War 2 are brought up. The film may be brief but hearing some edge of seat tales from those who fought right in the centre of it all, makes for some uncomfortable and yet some inspiring viewing. This film is pre-occupied with the humanity behind the shrapnel flying warfare and that is what makes this a very worthwhile viewing.
This is a film that Chapman has put together with the most noble of intentions and as a result we have a wonderful little insight into the men behind the uniforms and the people who aided them. The film ends with the talking heads being pictured side by side with their younger selves and named, which is a further detail that feels very much welcome. This was never intended to be a lecture or a deep historical documentary, but a poignant tribute to a battle that saw many lives lost. Thanks to films like this, not only will these people’s souls live on, so too will their crucial stories of the terrors of war – terrors we could do well to learn from today.