'The Burying Party' (2018) Review: A Dirge for a Warrior Poet

By: Liam A. Greene

Reviewer Rating: A+

Wilfred Owen’s last year of life is exposed in an ebullition of shell-shocked nightmares and self discovery in The Burying Party.

The audience is introduced to Owen amid his stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland. Richard Weston’s storyline begins to follow the poet from his fated introduction with his fellow combat veteran, poet, and self described mentor Siegfried Sassoon. It moves onward through subsequent meetings with renowned literary greats and fellow combat veterans Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, and Charles Scott Moncrieff. The story culminates with his heroic demise on Sambre-Oise canal near Ors, France in November of 1918.

If a true poet must be truthful, then a poet’s truth must be told truthfully. Weston and the cast of The Burying Party have done this unflinchingly. They have given an Arthurian vision of men in the hellish mouth of modernized warfare. Owen was one of the first to face this dragon of machine gun fire, artillery shell, and poison gas. His story tells the tale of a warrior poet who survived this experience, returned home to call the devil by its name, and returned to fight and die alongside his fellow countrymen. Weston and Thompson have expertly crafted a resonant tale of Owen’s final year of life.

In accordance with Weston’s statement, this film portrays the poet in similar form to Dominic Hibbard’s “Wilfred Owen: The Truth Untold”. This form begins with the portrayal of Owen’s character through his awkward and timid introduction to Sassoon. The film demonstrates Owen’s awkward mannerism and clashingly defies it with flashes of his experiences in France. These moments of timidity and pitiful gallantry work to demonstrate the struggle of a homosexual man in 1918 Britain. The film gradually bringing to head a sweeping and impassioned tale of poetic and romantic awakening and subsequent, tragic demise to rival Pontellier’s.

In keeping with Hibbard’s emphasis, this story does not allow youthful tension, gallant heroism, nor tragic end to intercede with the poet’s work. This film addresses the truth of the poet’s personal experience and the pity in that truth. It is a truth of the horrific forfeiture of life which the war exacted. It is a truth which forced the greatest heroes and poets of this time to reduce their passions to shadows. The film acknowledges, finally, that the man who is considered his country’s greatest poet of the first modern war, the warrior who gave the ultimate sacrifice, gave it for a country that refused to recognize him fully.

This film is a poetic milestone which comes pitifully late. It serves as a point of recognition of man whose works of war have been touted while his works of love were stifled and hidden. Perhaps the language of this medium is the language Owen foretold, an English language which allows poets to speak of heroism. Make no mistake, this film is about heroes.

Director: Richard Weston
Writer: Laurence Thompson
Cast: Matthew Staite, Sid Phoenix, Joyce Branagh, Benjamin Longthorne
Language: English
Cinematography: DOP Meurig Marshall
Score: Matthew Dwivedi

Runtime: 60 minutes

Official Sites:
The Burying Party


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