“The Great War” is a 1959’s movie by Mario Monicelli that can be considered a tragicomedy. While the story of the two friends Giovanni Busacca (Vittorio Gassman) and Oreste Jacovacci (Alberto Sordi) develops, the background of war and destruction goes ceaselessly on.
Giovanni and Oreste meet in 1916 on the Italian front and become friends because of their common ideas: they do not want to die for their homeland, but only to get outside the war having avoided any kind of danger. They are funny characters destroying the image of the “ideal soldier”; in fact, this has been the first movie, just after the fascist period, to consider the soldier as a human being and not as a war machine. Our two anti-heroes are then captured by the Austrians, accused of espionage and sentenced to death. To have their lives saved, they declare they have crucial information for the battle to come, but when the Austrian official starts making fun of their Italian courage, they change idea and decide to sacrifice themselves. At the end of the movie, the Italians won the battle without getting to know their sacrifice; on the contrary, the other soldiers think that they got away with it once again.
In the meantime, on the background of the comedy, the images of life in the trenches, fear, and of the Caporetto defeat go by causing a great sense of anxiety on the watcher. The movie is a great representation of the Italian frontline on the Friuli Venezia Giulia area, and clearly denounces the absurdity of the war that completely destroyed not only that region, but also the thousands of lives living and fighting there. “The Great War” is considered a masterpiece of Italian cinematography, and because of its strong impact won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival, the David di Donatello and the Nastro d’Argento awards.