For me, film has always been a great instructor of unknown historical events. It’s true that the validity might be up for debate on most of these films, but the important thing is that the topic is still to the masses. With Blood & Glory, a new historical drama by Sean Else, not only did it open a new historical chapter to my knowledge, it opened an entire book.
Blood & Glory is about the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa in 1901. During his detention at a concentration camp, Willem Morkel (Stian Bam), and several prisoners, form a rugby team to challenge the guards. The courage these men conveyed out shined the high stakes, a game the Boer men do not know, and the countless odds they found themselves up against.
Like many other historically based dramas, this film is leaning to one side. This isn’t a bad thing, and it doesn’t deter from the importance of this tale, but it deserves mentioning. All stories have heroes and villains, and due to the context, certain nationalities fall on opposing sides. This is a gentle reminder that historical freedom might be taken, but very little is painted with a fully black or white brush.
Besides the connection to history, the film immediately draws in your attention. From the gently yet firm use of narration to explain the settling, this world is presented in brutal realism. A painting is shown before you, and regardless of your emotional state, you’re intrigued to find out more. The intrigue continues to come from the beautiful way the story and characters are introduced in the film. It’s not long that you forget you are watching a drama about war and sport, and all emotional attention falls to these prisoners and the struggles they endured to survive.
To say that these actors were phenomenal seems incomplete. It is rare to find talent that makes you forget you are watching a movie, talent that transports you decades into the past and convinces you that you are watching live footage. The passion they places with each character, regardless of what side of the morality line they fell on, was impressive. There was an underlining honor that flowed among the cast, a desire to bring these struggles to a wide congregation so that this story could finally be heard.
The score also added a thorough line of respect throughout the film. The music was always in the background, adding different elements and shifts depending on what the emotional tone of the moment was. It wasn’t over powering, unless it needed to be, and complimented the strain where appropriate. The best music is when it’s a joint venture with the film as a whole, and this is a perfect example of that, building tone along with the story itself.
However, as mentioned before Blood & Glory is a sports film, and those elements are right in place as they should be. We have the meeting of the team, with their emotional backstories, and a few different training montages to add flare. Being a sucker for a sports film, I was delighted to know that these elements were included. Yet, part of me was shocked as well.
There were moments when I didn’t think these elements fit into the film. Not because of their execution, but because they sparked enthusiasm and joy among the Boer men.I felt as if I was betraying the story by being happy with them during this dark film. It was then that I realized that this was much more than just a historical drama or a sports film, it’s a film about finding hope through the darkest of times. These men were struggling to survive, and forming a brotherhood through sport allowed them one more day of joy in a time when their days on this earth were limited.
It’s this heart that adds an even more emotional tone to the historical content of the film. As all history deserves its time in lore, these stories can also inspire the next wave of generations. The comaraderie between these Boer soldiers, and what they were able to accomplish in their situation, is inspiring. The end may be bleak, but that does not mean the journey has to be.
Blood & Glory is now available on VOD platforms.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Dark Matters Studio