25 April: Film Review
Director: Leanne Pooley
Released in the 101st year of the ANZAC Commemorations and to all intents and purposes feeling like a learning tool rather than a cinematic experience, 25 April is a World War One curio.
Using the style of animation reserved for the pages of graphic novels or Telltale Games' style of console gaming, 25 April is a documentary aimed at bringing the story of the NZ experiences at Gallipoli vividly to life.
There's no disputing these six people's real-life tales are vividly realised and transposed to the big screen. From a soldier to a nurse, these are stories we've heard time and time before but which lose none of the power as the true horror of war is unveiled.
The problem with 25 April though is that it sticks so rigidly to the point of view of the ANZACs that it makes the rest of the campaign look like no-one else was involved. With a once over lightly approach to proceedings, and the ANZAC experience, it was very much a day in the life of and gives the ultimate result that the over-arching campaign itself was rather extraneous to proceedings.
There is an argument that because it was being done from the diaries of those involved, the over-arching aim wouldn't have been there for them to see, but the narrow focus actually causes the scope to feel very much from a tunnel vision.
Thankfully the animation is nothing short of astounding.
Vivid reds swamp the screen as the theatre of war is expunged.
And one sequence where the reds turn into poppies is heart-breakingly well done and stirring. Equally, a scene where a soldier is shot and the wound appears on him, turning into a poppy as it bleeds out is tremendously haunting and equally inventive.
With some excellent voice-work and some richly tragic and evocative source material to work from, 25 April certainly has its moments where it hits home.
As a piece of a wider puzzle and a deeper conflict, these stories are neither new and are extremely commonplace, leaving the nagging feel the reason for 25 April may be a little too late - it would have been well served in the 100th commemorations and would have reached a level that would have transcended need.
One can't help but shake the feeling this is not a film that actually needs to exist in a cinema; it's a tale to be told, granted, but it's more suited to a centre piece of a wider discussion, best housed in a museum and ANZAC context.