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From Here To Eternity

From Here To Eternity

By Patrick Samuel • January 22nd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Columbia Pictures

Original release: August 5th, 1953
Running time: 118 minutes

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Writers: James Jones, Daniel Taradas

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Donna Reed, Frank Sinatra, Ernest Borgnine

From Here To Eternity

There’s never been a shortage of films dealing with World War II, and while many of them offer insights into what soldiers on those frontlines faced, it’s this particular one which I’ve always found most fascinating for several reasons.

Adapted for the big screen from the novel of the same name by James Jones, it tells the story of a group of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months just before the Pearl Harbour attack on December 7th 1941 which lead to America’s entry in the war.

The film is what we can call an epic and Jones’ characters are brought to life with passion and angst by its stellar cast. As well as its infamous and daring love scene on the beach with First Sergeant Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster) and Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr), From Here To Eternity always pulls me back for another viewing each year because of its tortured bugler, brilliantly played by my screen idol, Montgomery Clift.

As Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, we first see him arriving at Schofield’s Barracks and running into his old friend Private Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra) before making his way to report to Milton. When the company learns of his boxing skills, they try to get him to join their team, but Prewitt is insistent he’s not there to box. This doesn’t make life easy for him, especially with Captain dishing out cruel punishments and ordering the other men to bully him until he breaks.

When Prew and Maggio hit the town its time to relax and unwind. Heading straight for Choy’s bar for some sodas and female entertainment, Prewitt meets and immediately falls in love with one of the girls that works there – Lorene (Donna Reed).

From Here To Eternity

In the romance that blossoms between them, Prewitt admits to her that he’s having a hard time in the army with the boys giving him the “treatment” and confesses the reason he refuses to box anymore is because he blinded a friend while they were sparring.

As the boys continue to put the screws on him, it’s only a matter of time before Prewitt cracks and gives the Captain the fight he’s been waiting for. It’s heartbreaking to watch. Monty imbues Prewitt with a nobility and strength that makes others want to so desperately to break. One of the film’s most poignant scenes comes after Maggio dies. Prewitt plays the bugle for him as tears stream down his face. The boys look on from a distance and they too are moved by his sorrowful playing.

Meanwhile, Milton is carrying on an affair with his captain’s wife and amidst their tender moments and scenes of blazing passion on the shore; we know this too can’t last. Though the characters of From Here To Eternity don’t know it, time is running short with the attack on Pearl Harbour edging nearer each moment.

Though it’s often mentioned because of its beach scene, or as the film which won Sinatra an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, it’s Monty who keeps me glued to the screen each time.

As with all of the roles he played in his 17 movies, Monty liked the ones where he could play sensitive and brooding characters, caught in conflict and deep in search of From Here To Eternity resolution. Prewitt was all of these things; a man Milton called a “hardhead” because of his principals. It was the perfect role for a Method actor.

Something else which I’ve always found to be affecting is the way the characters in From Here To Eternity all experience some kind of loneliness and are searching for a way out of it, as if they’re lost. It’s not just Prewitt – we see it with Milton, Maggio, Lorene and if we start to look at why the bullying Staff Sergeant Fatso Judson (Ernest Borgnine) is the way he is, we might also come to same conclusion about him.

Ultimately From Here To Eternity is about the way these people go about doing what they think will bring them happiness and fulfilment in life, rather than looking at how war is fought. In choosing to focus on the personal disasters in their individual lives rather than the disaster of the attack that will soon follow, Jones’ story offers something unique and honest, if not always pleasant to look at.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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