‘[Dunkirk] is the story of the global preservation of freedom, of the prevention of a new dark age. It deserves to be remembered’. – Joshua Levine (2017).
Have you recently watched Christopher Nolan’s gripping film ‘Dunkirk’, and wish to discover the true story behind it all? Or do you simply seek to uncover more about this iconic moment of the Second World War?
Whatever your reasons for reading this book, ‘Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture’ by Joshua Levine, is the answer to your prayers. You do not need to have watched Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ before reading this book, (although I strongly recommend that you do so anyway, as it is a phenomenal film)! Levine worked as the Historical Advisor for the creation of the movie ‘Dunkirk’, and he decided to publish this book alongside the release of the film. This is a brilliant idea, because Levine’s book not only enlightens this newly-inspired audience about the harsh reality behind the film, but also reveals a fascinating insight into how the evacuation was beautifully recreated for a 21st century audience.
In his book, Levine aims to uncover the brutal truth surrounding the evacuation of Dunkirk during May and June 1940. He paints a scene through words, where hundreds and thousands of Allied troops were stranded upon the beaches at Dunkirk. All were seeking the safety and comfort of the British shores, whilst knowing all the while that their German enemies were closing in on them. The odds seemed stacked against them, yet through the co-operation and bravery of both servicemen and civilians alike, an incredible number of British and Allied troops were rescued from Dunkirk’s beaches. The British were therefore able to continue their fight against Nazi Germany, and eventually turn the tables by winning a victory against them five years later.
Levine’s book shares various themes which are portrayed within Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’. Through the use of contemporary records and fiercely honest testimonies, Levine is able to convey the desperation, uncertainty, heroism and unity, which were shared amongst the thousands of British troops who were waiting upon Dunkirk’s beaches. Readers are immersed in a horrific and surreal world, where individuals were tested to the extreme and the best and worst of mankind were witnessed. Similar to Christopher Nolan, Levine presents an evacuation which was undoubtedly miraculous and impressive, yet was fundamentally a merciless story of survival.
Another similar theme found between Levine’s book and Nolan’s film, is the featuring of the British Expeditionary Force, the Royal Navy, the RAF and civilian volunteers. ‘Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture’, combines the stories of all four elements of the British Armed Forces, to show how every one of them demonstrated acts of courage and sacrifice during the traumatic months of May and June 1940.
Unlike Nolan’s depiction of ‘Dunkirk’, Levine highlights the political and military factors which caused the British and Allied forces to retreat from the clutches of Nazi Germany in 1940. He also reveals just how worryingly close Britain came to surrendering, if it were not for the combination of many fortunate coincidences (including the weather)! The beginning of Levine’s book, also focused upon the transformations experienced amongst both British and German society during the build-up to the Second World War. This was a fantastic addition, because it exposed a glimpse into the mindsets of those millions of young soldiers. As Levine establishes, it would be these ordinary young men who would later cause great bloodshed and encounter many terrifying scenarios, all for the sake of victory.
‘Dunkirk: The History Behind the Major Motion Picture’ is a great companion to Nolan’s film. Levine engrosses his readers into the daunting task of bringing the evacuation to life, and confirms just how much of Nolan’s film was historically accurate. Levine also channels the enthusiasm and passion, which was felt amongst Nolan and his crew throughout their filming experience.
The combination of Nolan’s film and Levine’s book is an applaudable achievement. They have succeeded in inspiring a vast new audience, such as the younger generation and audiences overseas. More importantly, they have opened the eyes of their audiences to the significance of the Dunkirk evacuation. By displaying the raw, human aspects of this extraordinary story, Nolan and Levine have made the horrors and triumphs of war more relatable, moving and impressionable. It is because of this achievement that both Nolan and Levine, have accomplished their aim in making sure that the astonishing tale of the Dunkirk evacuation would never, ever be forgotten!
Joshua Levine’s Website: https://levinehistory.wordpress.com
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