“Testament of Youth” Examines Lost Generation
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
British author Vera Brittain came of age during World War I. A young Oxford student, she along with her brother Edward and his friends were swept up in world events. She became a V.A.D. nurse
Life went on and she married and had children and lived a fruitful life. But she documented her youthful tragedy in a 1933 memoir titled “Testament of Youth.” It is considered one of the finest true-life accounts of the war, in that it captured the effects of the war from a domestic point of view, how it impacted the lives of young women like Vera Brittain.
In 1979 it was dramatized as a five-part series on BBC2.
Then, with the encouragement of Vera Brittain’s daughter and her mother’s biographer, a new version was announced in 2009. That film was released in late 2014 as part of the First World War commemorations.
“Testament of Youth” is playing this week at Tropic Cinema.
Alicia Vikander (oddly enough, a Swedish actress) takes on the role of Vera. You saw her in the Academy Award nominated Danish film “A Royal Affair” and more recently as the android in “Ex Machina.” She’s next slated to appear in Guy Ritchie’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” Then in “Adam Jones” with Bradley Cooper and “The Danish Girl” with Eddie Redmayne.
Christopher "Kit" Harington (a Brit) shows good chemistry with Vikander as Roland, Vera’s lost love. You know him from TV’s “Game of Thrones.” And you’ve heard his voice in “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
Taron Eggerton and Colin Morgan play brother Edward and blinded friend Victor. Dominic West and Emily Watson are the Brittain parents. And Miranda Richardson makes an appearance in a lesser role.
Director James Kent describes it as a profound story of love and loss.
Alicia Vikander says, “I fell in love with Vera. She is a very strong character. It reminds you how much women’s history has changed in 100 years.”
Vera Brittain’s book (and thus the movie) is based in part on a series of correspondences between Vera and her friends, later collected under the title “Letters from a Lost Generation.” A term coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Ernest Hemingway, Lost Generation describes those who came of age during World War I. Here the word “lost” means “disoriented, directionless.”
However, Vera Brittain -- often cited as a willful young woman who epitomized early feminism -- was far from directionless. Often described as “rebellious and wise beyond her years,” she knew where she was going; the war just got in the way.