Beneath Hill 60
starring Brendan Cowell, Harrison Gilbertson, Steve Le Marquand, Gyton Grantely, Alex Thompson and Anthony Hayes
written by David Roach
directed by Jeremy Sims
Called “Silent War” in Japan, this is an Australian movie set in 1916 about Australian mining engineers working at the First World War’s Western Front digging large mines under German trenches. The Japanese title refers to the environment of the mines deep under German positions. At first I wanted to give it fewer stars because I thought it looked like TV movie quality. But then I raised the score because I thought the acting was good and the story was dramatic not the least because it is historically factual.
I have known since high school history class about such mines, but I never knew the details. As another strategy to break through the static battle lines defined by trenches that stretched from the English Channel all the way to the Swiss border both the Allies and the Germans dug deep mines under each others’ trenches, filled them with high explosives, and set them off in what were some of the largest man-made explosions to that time. I knew all that. To this day some Great War battlefield locations still cover unexploded mines, and I don’t mean anti-personnel landmines, either. Thousands of tons of unexploded ordinance remain buried. No one knows now exactly where the mines were dug and the danger is too great to go poking or even walking around, so they remain permanently fenced off for safety’s sake.
Beneath Hill 60 gives a good feeling for the dirt, cold and wet of the WWI battlefields and the Allied trenches in particular. (Too often the Germans held the high ground on the battlefields, and the British and French had the low ground under German lines of fire, where all the rain water and melting snow pooled.) I was really impressed with the dirt. What dirt!
I think it’s a film that will make Australians proud.