Thoughtful and Poignant: Monuments Men

Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, opened in theaters February 7, 2014.

Monuments Men, directed by George Clooney, opened in theaters February 7, 2014.

From the gorgeous landscapes of Europe to the burnt piles of art and culture beneath the continent’s surface, George Clooney’s Monuments Men captures both the feats and trials of humanity by depicting the efforts of men who risked their lives for art, rather than glory, during the chaos of World War II.

As a relatively inexperienced director, known almost exclusively for his direction of The Ides of March, Clooney risks losing a compelling story to an already renowned cast that includes himself. He does an incredible job keeping the focus on the story when it easily could’ve become a showcase of talent. Fast paced yet paradoxically calm and astute, Monuments Men finds the ability to leave a long lasting impact on the viewer by teaching viewers to appreciate the profound beauty of art and to learn humility in times of crisis.

Starring Academy Award winners such as Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and Cate Blanchett, it’s easy to forget Monuments Men serves truly as an ode to those who received no recognition for their bravery in the War. Although the actors in this film have been highly successful bringing their characters to life in other films, in Monuments Men the characters never flourish as individuals. For example, Matt Damon fails to transform into James Rorimer, and Cate Blanchett never recreates the whole of Rose Valland. The viewer, however, does not feel slighted at the minor disconnect from the true personalities of the real-life Monuments Men, for this absence is symbolic of the idea that the importance of deeds transcends the men who do them.

In order to convince the president that the mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis would not put the lives of anyone participating in it at any any greater risk than that of entering a war zone, the Monuments Men agreed to stick to the mantra “No piece of art is worth a human life.”

Viewers quickly find that not a single member of the team actually believes in the mantra.

Throwing the viewers from the sandy beaches of Normandy to the dark mines in the depths of Germany, the film provides stunning visions of Europe filled with rich history such as Palais am Festungsgraben or the Salzburg mines. As the movie progresses, one continues to learn about the importance of art within a culture through the men searching to preserve great works from the past.

Monuments Men serves as a historical film that documents the forgotten heroes of the art world first, but it contains a much deeper takeaway. While it seems as if there are so many things to kill for in this world, it reminds us that among the most important are the ones worth dying for. Art and culture were the Monuments Men’s passion and they sought to live and die to preserve it. This film forces us to think about our own passions and ultimately whether or not we truly care enough about that which we love to give our lives for it.