The Wipers Times
Starring Ben Chaplin, Julian
Rhind0Tutt, Michael Palin
@SPL: DVD 940.4144 Wiper
Although this year marks 100 years since the beginning of The Great War, you might be hard-pressed to recall many films about WWI – at least, recent ones. There was War Horse, based on the children’s novel, and the alternate-universe “what-if” film War of the Worlds: Goliath, but it seems WWI has got the short end of the stick when it comes to being immortalized on the silver screen in recent years (perhaps because America, home of Hollywood, did not enter the Great War until 1917, but that is just speculation).
So it was a lovely surprise to come across The Wipers Times, based on the true story of a small British regiment of men who began and managed to sustain a tongue-in-cheek newspaper from 1916 to the end of the war.
Commander Roberts and his team use their dry wit to keep sane in the insanity of the front lines. When they stumble upon a printing press while salvaging timber in the bombed-out town of Ypres, Belgium, they decide – for their own distraction and the morale of the troops – to begin a newspaper to report on “the real war,” filled with satirical advertisements and articles that proves popular with the soldiers and quite unpopular with the brass. These articles are closer to the truth of war, they feel, than the “reports from the front” written by war correspondents in cushy city offices for The Times and Daily Mail in London.
Through postings from Ypres (pronounced “wipers” by the British) to the deadly battles at the Somme and back again, The Wipers Times is an excellent story – illustrating the heroism of men without glorifying war, mixing the political machinations of the war machine with the theatrical interludes of the “editorial staff” of the Wipers Times.
The dialogue is quick but thoughtful, and the wit so dry it serves as counterpoint to the knee-deep mud of the Somme. The Wipers Times is an exceptional film of about a tiny piece of The Great War – one that might have been forgotten. Lest we do, it can be found on the shelves of the Stratford Public Library.
– Robyn Godfrey, librarian