Order topic: Movie Influenza 1918
Academic level: High School
Formatting style: MLA
Reference is the movie “Influenza 1918” PBS. American Experience
Just analysis and own thinking about the movie.
Movie: Influenza 1918.
The movie, as the name suggests is an account of the 1918 influenza pandemic which occurred between January 1918 and December 1920. This pandemic is considered a major disaster in human history, and it occurred as an epilogue of the 1st World War. Medical practitioners at the time determined that it was a viral infection that was caused by a strain of influenza virus known as H1N1, a strain that the world had not encountered before in history. The virus infected over 500 million people all over the world, and killing close to 5% of the world’s population at the time, that is about 100 million people. The virus was nicknamed ‘The Spanish Flu’, not because Spain was the hardest hit, but due to severe illness of the country’s King Alfonso XIII. In the United States, the first people to be infected were from Haskell County, Kansas, from where the virus spread like wildfire, facilitated by the way the American soldiers lived in close quarters. In the United States alone the virus killed about 600,000 people. The movie Influenza 1918: The American Experience recounts the events as they happened in America.
The movie was produced in the year 1998 by Margaret Drain as the executive producer, Robert Kenner and Larry LeCain. It was directed by Robert Kenner. The lead actors included Alfred Crosby, Shirley Fannin, John De Lano, William Maxwell, Porter Reading and Barbara Rosencrantz. The events were narrated by Linda Hunt. The movie is classified as a medical documentary, 60 minutes long.
The title of the movie, Influenza 1918: The American Experience is minimalist and is straight to the point. It tells what the movie is all about without wasting words. The title is appropriate for the film as it tells us what to expect.
The movie details the events as they happened during the pandemic. It starts by a young soldier who reports of the infection, and as the day goes by, more and more people report the same type of symptoms. It explains how a bluish fluid was found in the lungs of some American soldiers. The disease was diagnosed to be influenza, but the severity of the infection was unlike any strain ever seen. As Linda narrates, some infected people were fine and looked healthy in the morning only to pass on by evening. The events are illustrated in the film through fantastic archival photographs that were taken during the period of the pandemic. In addition, the film employs use of archival footage together with intimate interviews from some of the survivors and medical historians. Medical science at the time failed to provide a remedy to the problem, and as the film explains, people turned to folk remedies, like garlic, camphor and kerosene-soaked sugar.
The movie flows smoothly, with chronological narration from Linda. The interviews are really informative and interactive, as they give firsthand accounts of what happened. This was the case especially the interview with Dr Alfred Colby and Dr Shirley Fannin. The mood of the event rubs off on the viewers, as the survivors narrate their own versions of the experience.
The use of still archival photographs was brilliant, as it portrayed the scenes as they were. The images of patients in hospitals and those of the soldiers in the camps served to reconstruct the grim setting during the medical disaster. The pictures of people wearing masks clearly illustrated the severity of the pandemic and the ease of transmission of the disease. The use of archive film footage really recreated the tone of the difficult times.
The setting of the movie was in the period of 1918- 1920, and the visual artistry efficiently captured this fact. The cast was composed of the real victims who experienced everything and survived. The events were still fresh in their minds, as evidenced by how smoothly and chronologically they gave their stories. The times were tough and people lived in fear, according to John de Lano’s account, “Everybody was living in deadly fear because it was so quick, so sudden, and so terrifying.”
The plot of the movie was completely factual, and the characters, through their words and actions, came across as credible. The director of the movie erred on the moody side of the pandemic more than the factual side of the incidence. The movie did a pretty good job of invoking feelings of sympathy and sadness. The viewer actually feels the pain of the victims. The music used in the film was in line with the mood and settings, as it enhanced the gloom in the movie. The lighting and positioning of cameras was good, but not really outstanding. The average cinematography results in an ordinary overall film.
While the movie’s science was to be taken with a grain of salt, for instance a comment by one of the survivors, who claimed that the disease was caused by extensive burning of manure in Kansas, and that later, the sun darkened before a victim passed away. These claims were dismissed by medical practitioners. In addition, the director did not give priority to the actual complete history of the influenza pandemic, but paid more attention to the mood side of the story. However, the movie does a good job in influencing the mood of the viewer. Another downside of the movie is that it seems like the producers and directors took a “good” influential story and made a movie out of it, and this tends to make the movie seem like ‘commercial’.
The length of the film of one hour was appropriate for this type of movie, as it is not so long that the viewer gets bored and distracted. In addition, it is not so short that the viewer fails to capture the essence of the film. Watching the film in its entirety therefore should not be a problem for those who are easily distracted or those with short attention spans.
This movie stands out from other medical thrillers, because by the end of the movie, the cure to the virus had not yet been found is, that is, there is no happy ending. This is unlike other movies in the same category, where the story starts with a difficult medical situation which is conquered by the end of the movie. This is mainly because the movie in question recounts actual events that happened in history, hence the story cannot be twisted around to recreate events that did not happen.
Throughout the movie, the cast members each perform their roles efficiently. Each of them was given ample time to recount the experience as they remember it. They take us through their experiences, the good, bad and ugly. The viewer is able to feel their pain through the cast members’ words and emotions.
All in all, it is a movie that is well produced. The inclusion of actual survivors greatly improves the credibility of the events that happened during the influenza pandemic. The powerful combination of narration, still photos, film footage and interactive interviews was a brilliant way to put the whole story together. The best part was travelling through the journey with the victims as they narrated the story. The movie efficiently reminds us of a historical disaster that most have forgotten. Watching it reminds one of the importances of being prepared for medical disasters. Overall, it is a brilliant movie that is well put together, depicting a country that was caught off guard by a medical disaster. I believe it is worth sparing an hour of your time to watch the great medical documentary.