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The Wars

Year: 1983
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 118 min
Director: Robin Phillips
Producer: Richard Nielsen
Executive Producer: Robert Verrall
Writer: Timothy Findley
Cinematographer: John Coquillon
Editor: Tony Lower
Sound: Joseph Champagne
Music: Glenn Gould
Cast: Martha Henry, Jackie Burroughs, Alan Scarfe, Jean Leclerc, Domini Blythe, William Hutt, Brent Carver, Ann-Marie MacDonald
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada, Nielsen-Ferns International, Polyphon Filmund Fernseh GmbH

Robert Ross (Brent Carver) has grown up in Toronto’s affluent Rosedale neighbourhood with his domineering and alcoholic mother (Martha Henry), emotionally absent father (William Hutt), disabled sister Rowena (Ann-Marie MacDonald) – whom he adores – and their governess (Jackie Burroughs). When Rowena dies, Ross enlists for combat in the First World War, goes for training and fights in the trenches. In London he meets and marries Lady Barbara (Domini Blythe), but their romantic involvement is as destructive for him as were the events at the front.

Though hailed as a “classic” by many critics on its release, Timothy Findley’s adaptation of his novel, directed by noted theatre director Robin Phillips, was something of a disappointment. The performances are uniformly excellent and there are several unforgettable scenes, but the film suffers from Phillips’s lack of cinematic flow – the cinematography is pedestrian, there are too many longueurs and the editing is inconsistent (the parallel structure of the novel here becomes merely fragmented). It was a box-office failure but won three Genie Awards, including Best Lead Actress (Henry) and Best Supporting Actress (Burroughs).

By: Peter Morris