Saturday, September 22, 2007

Reviewed: Ken Burns' "The War"

"World War II didn’t happen just to us," writes Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times, in a review of the new Ken Burns documentary, The War, which will be shown beginning Sunday night on most PBS stations.

But it would be hard to glean that from Ken Burns’s 7-night, 15-hour tribute to the greatest generation that ever bought war bonds, joined the Marines or tightened rivets on a B-17 Flying Fortress.

The London blitz, Stalingrad, Bergen-Belsen and the Warsaw uprising are parentheses in this respectful, moving and meticulously illustrated anthology of small-town lives turned upside down by what one elderly veteran calls “a necessary war.”

The war was necessary, but is this approach?

The tone and look of Mr. Burns’s series, which begins Sunday on PBS, is as elegiac and compelling as any of his previous works, but particularly now, as the conflict in Iraq unravels, this degree of insularity — at such length and detail — is disconcerting. Many a “Frontline” documentary has made a convincing case that the Bush administration’s mistakes were compounded by the blinkered thinking of leaders who rushed to war without sufficient support around the world or understanding of the religious and sectarian strains on the ground. Examining a global war from the perspective of only one belligerent is rarely a good idea.

The rest is here. The PBS website for The War is here. Find out when the series will be shown in your area here.
: Ralph Luker collects more reviews at Cliopatria. The accompanying book, The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945, by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns (Knopf), is reviewed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.