Pop Culture-y acknowledges the 100th anniversary of the Great Catastrophe of 1914 with a review of The Wipers Times.
Based on the true story of a group of soldiers that find a printing press and start a newspaper out in the trenches of World War I, The Wipers Times has a great premise but doesn’t totally deliver. There are certainly some fun moments, but being about World War One, it is also quite dark. It seems unable to decide whether it is serious or fun, which can be seen as a very meta metaphor for the entire of World War One (even the ending parodies that somewhat, with an anti-climatic finish of combat). Still, it is definitely very British, especially the humour, with some thought-provoking monologues and banter.
War is horrible – there are more than enough movies that have this theme, especially World War One stories (All Quiet on the Western Front being the quintessential example). And make no mistake, The Wipers Times doesn’t suggest that World War One was a wonderful adventure filled with the infinite glory that it was made out to be in 1914.
However, it focuses on the creativity that is created in adversity as horrific as what was experienced in the trenches: how even in the middle of the horrors that surrounded them, the men who fought were able to see and bring out humour in their situation. There is a line in there where the main character actually states that to him, war was not this serious business of tragedy and misery, but rather it was in many ways quite fun, because that was what he as a soldier had actually focussed on.
The humour itself, despite some moments, is really very much for historians and those who appreciate dry humour with bad (hilarious) puns. The film simply throws the viewer right into the middle of the War and assumes the audience already knows what’s happening, so a basic understanding of WWI, journalism or at least printing presses is recommended to get some of the jokes.
Production wise, this film is superb. The acting is flawless, and you’ll find yourself picking up a slight officer’s accent after watching it (try and avoid their slang though), and while a few of the monologues feel a bit hammy, the script is solid. It also avoids major combat scenes whether because of budget or other reasons.
One things which I would have done differently is in the colouring. Most of the film is in colour, but there are skits in the film which act out the advertisements in the newspaper (suitably amusing considering the time period). They are shot in black and white to mimic the colouring of old newspapers, but I think that having it in full, vibrant colour would have been more fun.
All in all, a solid film. The humour is very topical, so unless you know a bit of history, then a lot of the jokes will go over your head. Aside from the colour scheme, The Wipers Times is still a good, enjoyable film. Definitely something to include in your World War 1 movies – especially after emotionally draining films like All Quiet on the Western Front.