Note: Contains spoilers for 1917.
1917 is now in cinemas, meaning audiences can see just why the World War I epic is up for so many awards.
The tense and powerful movie follows two British soldiers who are sent on an impossible mission into no man’s land and enemy territory, all to deliver a message that will stop an ill-fated attack from happening.
Related: 1917 writer reveals biggest challenge of making a one-shot war movie
And as emotional and harrowing as the movie gets, 1917 could be darker than you realise.
But to go into the reasons why, we have to head into spoiler territory, so look away now if you haven’t seen it yet.
If you’ve seen 1917, then you’ll know that both soldiers don’t make it to the end, with Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) fatally stabbed by a German pilot when the duo reach an abandoned farmhouse.
Schofield (George MacKay) continues the mission to get the message to Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) and, despite being knocked out by a German sniper, he regains consciousness in time to complete the task and get Mackenzie to stop the attack.
Having given the message and told Blake’s brother (Richard Madden) about his death, Schofield relaxes against a tree, looking at a photo of his family who are waiting for him to return home.
A happy ending, right? Well…
While the ending can be read at face value, there’s a moment earlier in 1917 that has us worried about Schofield’s fate.
When Schofield and Blake first cross into no man’s land, Schofield cuts his hand open on a barbed wire fence. The pair joke about it – “You’ll be wanking again in no time” – but Schofield soon accidentally puts that same hand into the corpse of a German soldier.
Now, sure, it could have been a fresh corpse and therefore not much chance of an infection, but the script describes the moment as, “Schofield’s cut hand goes into the putrid flesh”.
And if you want to know just how “putrid”, MacKay recently revealed that the body was meant to have the “consistency of camembert”. Remarkably, that was actually taken from a World War I diary.
“I took that from a diary that someone wrote in 1919. They were still conscripting men to clean up no man’s land because of the bodies,” co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns told BBC Radio 1.
“That’s the point of research. I took the idea of a body like camembert and put it straight in. I remember the make-up artist Naomi Donne coming up to me and she’s like, ‘You’re disgusting’. I was like, ‘Thank you’.”
Blake treats Schofield’s wounds with some water and bandages, but that won’t be enough to stop a serious infection like septicemia which can be life-threatening – especially in a place so bereft of good medical supervision as the trenches – so Schofield could have a serious problem on his hands (quite literally).
You might think we’re just being dark for the sake of it (you know us so well!) but when we put our theory to Wilson-Cairns that Schofield died from an infection after the movie ended, she didn’t rule it out.
“He might still! You don’t know that. He didn’t get that cleaned out,” she told Digital Spy, adding that there’s another thing that points to a potentially dark end for Schofield.
“I think the thing is, you know, when he sits down by that tree – if you know some stuff about the war, you know that in 1917 the war’s not over. There’s another year to it,” Wilson-Cairns noted.
“I think when Schofield sits down against that tree, and he looks at his family, and you know that he has something to go home for, I think there’s a determination in him that you think, ‘Yes, this man will live’.
“But you’re never told whether or not he does…”
1917 is in cinemas now.
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