Testament of Youth
Testament of Youth is a beautiful screen adaptation of Vera Brittain’s memoirs during the First World War and its tragic privation of youth. It is her story of love, loss and struggle, and here she is played to perfection by the beautiful Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.
Her pain and her strength encompass her whole soul, so much so that the audience can feel it through the screen. Though the main protagonist is female, the key to the brilliance of this film is not the separation of the sexes or the power struggle between the two – as war films tend to only focus on one – instead it is the harmony, the compatibility and the love between them, through lovers or family, which evokes the most powerful personalisation within the hearts of the audience. This is revealed in the camaraderie between the male youths of this film, excellently captured by these young actors, as their carefree ability to joke and summer together in school holidays is stolen from them. The entire generation, male and female lost their youth in the war equally.
It is this harmony that allows this 100-year-old war its contemporary relevance and appeal to us now. Though the subject seems to be fixated in a specific time and date in history, its lessons and its pain are still felt universally to this day and will always be relatable. An important message from Testament of Youth is how equal soldiers from all sides were: they all had families and loved ones, such that their deaths inflicted the deepest of wounds. For Brittain to have such a logical and fair understanding of war with such fresh personal wounds is a unique, almost inhuman, sentiment. This display of mental heroism is a lesson that can and should always be taught and encouraged, which is why it was imperative that this film was made, and so well too.
Testament of Youth itself portrays impressive director’s skill. What is most striking is that its scenes allow events to become obvious without the need to spell them out to the audience, enabled by the stunning acting from all the cast. Their ability to perform makes the need for words and explanation void. It is this subtlety and masterful editing and direction that makes this film so powerful. It truly does justice to Brittain’s book and its real heroes and heroines.
Testament of Youth is released nationwide on 16th January 2015.
Watch the trailer for Testament of Youth here: