Raiders of Art

Raiders of Art


“The Monuments Men”

In Hollywood, World War II movies keep coming. Not all of them are bad, not all of them are good. Yet, there’s that chance you have to take where they all end the same.

However, George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” shows us a different ending behind history’s faded pages, detailing the work of a relatively obscure division of the Allied forces tasked with the protection and recovery of Europe’s art and monuments.

I will be the first to admit that not all historical movies are exciting or accurate. And no film can be both.

For the film’s leads, cura­tors, played by Matt Damon and George Clooney, the search for Europe’s looted art seems too easy. The hardest thing Damon’s character did was flirt with Cate Blanchett and lift himself up using only his biceps, odd for the head of the Cloisters at the Met in New York City. Luckily, the movie’s heart makes up for its bland characters.

At a screening for the mov­ie on Jan. 19, the movie’s screen­writer Robert M. Edsel, a ‘75 St. Mark’s alumnus and the author of the book the film is based on, told me his version of movie’s message: “I believe that protect­ing art is just as essential as manufacturing bullets.”

Granted, you can’t make a World War II movie without guns. The overall set design makes up for the cliche, bring­ing heartbreaking reality to an otherwise “artsy” movie.

Never do I find movie bat­tlegrounds worth tears. Howev­er, the true history behind “The Monuments Men” did move me. I realized the different shots in the movie (the halls of the Lou­vre devoid of paintings, only with the frames left lopsidedly hanging, underground caches of life, art packed away, never to see the light of day and, most of all, flames devouring a whole culture, melting oil paint, oblit­erating marble), were not some dramatic Hollywood “tragedy.”

It had actually happened. “The Monuments Men” leaves an ache in movie-goers for things that we never can get back.

And that’s where you find the real character of the movie that has been in the background since the opening scene.

Art is just as much of a star in “The Monuments Men” as Matt Damon or George Clooney. The picture gets across a point that Hockaday’s History of Art and Music class has been drill­ing into us for years: art is not just something pretty to hang on the wall. It’s not something that can be replaced. It’s our culture. It’s the world’s life pre­served by brush. It’s humanity.

And it’s something people are willing to die for.

– Kate Clement