Sunday, 27 March 2016

A 30,262nd act of remembrance

20:00 CEST; 27th March 2016 – Ieper, Belgium.  For the 30,262nd time a remarkable act took place, as it has done at 8pm every night since 2nd July 1928.

The buglers from the volunteer fire brigade take their place under the arch of the Menin Gate and sound the last post as an act of remembrance for those killed in the First World War.

It’s a simple act, but one which has run for so long that it’s taken on its own importance.

From 6th May 1940 until 5th September 1944 the ceremony was moved to Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey as the occupying Nazi’s stopped it from taking place in Ypres.  But on the evening of 6th September 1944, with Polish troops still fighting in parts of the town securing its liberation the ceremony restarted underneath the gate.

With this knowledge it’s impossible but to be incredibly moved by this simple ceremony and the importance if you are in Ieper of coming along to watch.

Looking round the crowds that gathered every night I have been in Ieper there are many faces familiar from Breakfast in the hotel as well as countless others, all coming to pay their respects.

And perhaps the most moving part of the ceremony is that only a few words are spoken, but with them the enormity of loss becomes all the clearer, and it’s difficult to see an eye that isn’t welling up slightly.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

Deploying Hitchcock to get your message across

"I think what sound brought of value to the cinema was to complete the realism of the image on the screen. It made everyone in the audience deaf mutes." -Alfred Hitchcock

Would Psycho be the terrifying movie it is without the soundtrack?  There are countless theses and probably thousands of undergraduate dissertations written on the subject of using music to set the scene.

However, if you want to get a real life example of deploying music to set the scene then you need go no further than the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ieper (Ypres).  This is a stunning and incredibly moving museum that takes you through the horrors of the Great War on the Western Front and in particular around the Ypres Salient.

By itself it would be difficult not to be moved by the museum, the sheer sense of futile loss the hundreds of thousands of lives sacrificed for no real purpose.

However, throughout your visit to the museum there is a constant background music that manages to get into your head and burrow into both your brain and your heart.

I thought I might just have been me imagining it, but part way round they had a fault with the sound system and the music stopped for about 5 minutes.  During that time I felt I didn’t have such an emotional attachment to the artefacts – that’s all they became, just artefacts.  However, within a minute or so of the music starting back up again that sense of foreboding, fear and hopelessness is back.

Perhaps I was just imagining it, but by the time I left the museum – nearly 3 hours after entering – I was emotionally drained, and at the end of the day that’s probably exactly how you should feel after reading about the horrors of the Western Front.