On the beaches

28 July 2017

FRENCH newspapers have not been adulatory about Chris­topher Nolan’s film Dunkirk. Apart from the handful shown be­­hind a street barricade in the open­ing sequence, the only French soldiers in the film are those who try to argue their way on to a British boat. Le Monde asks: “Where are the 120,000 French soldiers also evacuated from Dunkirk in this film? Where are the 40,000 who sacrificed themselves to defend the city against an enemy superior in arms and in numbers?” The critic detects in the film “a stinging rude­ness, a deplorable indifference”.

It is impossible to ignore the parallels with Brexit — so far a story of panicky, unplanned withdrawal from a Europe that is increasingly hostile, or at least deplorably indifferent. There are other parallels, however. It is impossible to view scenes of be­­draggled men being hauled from the sea without reflecting on the moment when the vision, the wisdom, and the nerve of the European nations — and perhaps Britain most of all — failed in the face of the tide of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. The political leaders who responded most generously were threatened by a conservative backlash. In Britain, David Cameron suffered from a similar backlash without any of the preceding generosity. This aside, Nolan is to be commended for his unsentimental view of the British. For every Kenneth Branagh standing nobly on a jetty there are two chancers beneath it, trying to jump the queue to safety. Celebrating the Dunkirk escape, the Church Times wrote: “There is a welter of wicked­ness in the world and an amazing amount of sacrifice.” Without vision and compassion, the former can overshadow the latter.


On breaches

IF THE statement by a group of conservatives really is what the Telegraph called a “Split in the C of E”, readers could be forgiven for failing to notice it. Several of the signatories split away some time ago, and many of the rest al­­ready behave as if they had. Church affiliation is a voluntary affair, and those who switch to a denomination more to their liking usually go graciously. There is, of course, nothing to stop their making a statement about the denomination they have left, but it behoves them at least to represent it accurately. The Tele­graph letter signed by a similar group talks of the “booing of trad­i­tionalists and the levels of personal abuse aimed at them”. These incidents in the York sessions of the General Synod have already been discussed by correspondents on these pages. Readers who still believe the booing to be unprovoked can make up their own minds: the YouTube video remains online.

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