Testament of Youth became a completely random choice made on a night that everyone experiences every now and then: when you want to watch something, but kind of experience a movie-choice crisis. Now that we all know who Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington are, this might seem like an obvious choice, be at the time it was not for me. I didn’t know who either of them were, and how I got lucky enough to have stumbled upon this movie on that night stays unclear. But I was lucky indeed.
Now, here’s a turndown for many: Testament of Youth tells about a war. The World War I, which violently ripped through Europe at the beginning of the 20th century.
But more so, the war is simply a background event to the beautiful people and their lives that got ruined, restored and ruined again over and over.
The movie takes us beyond the devastation and pain towards the hope and the rising spirit of pacifism and forgiveness, which they brought about in the brave mind of the protagonist.
You might have already heard the name Vera Brittain somewhere from someone. She is the main character in the movie and a woman
whose real-life youth during the years of the war brought about a bestseller memoir
known to critics as one of the strongest and most impressive memoirs. Well, it certainly shows in the screening.
Impressed by the movie, I knew I needed to get to reading the book right away. It took me some time to find and order it. Around a month more to finally receive it, but it was absolutely worth waiting. It was everything that the movie was, but so much more. Written in a manner which analyses and explains the feelings and emotions on a deeper level than any movie could, it lets us into the inner world of Vera Brittain and brings to us the romantic yet realistic attitude along with some undeniably beautiful pieces of poetry, which are not given much attention to in the movie.
The book is a slower and a fuller life story of Vera Brittain.
She is strong-willed, has a spirit of a protester and a reformer. She knows what she wants, even though her plans and wishes do not correspond well with the realities she lives in. She strives to be smart and to be seen as smart, and to pursue deeper knowledge and integration into an intellectual society at Oxford. Her family, not so much supporting and believing in their daughter, but loving, allows her to make an attempt at reaching her goals. Surprisingly, she succeeds.
It is the beginning of a new life, a new meaning. But then war comes.
What would seem an end to many (as it might have seemed to Vera herself) unexpectedly becomes a beginning. The war takes from her one thing, but also gives another in return. And they might not seem the same in value, but it is for the viewer to decide whether the exchange turned out meaningful in the end.
Testament of Youth is horribly depressing at times but also infinitely inspiring and somehow very clean, although not innocent. Vera is uncorrupted and curious, selfless and stubborn. After having seen and lost things that made up her life, she comes out of the crowd of people celebrating the end of the war and asks an important question:
What is it everybody is celebrating? Peace or victory? Forgiveness and meaningfulness or hatred and futility? What is war exactly and how are we and our “enemy” really different?
This movie will make you think, make you feel… and most certainly cry. It is an amazing portrayal of a beautiful, truly heartbreaking and moving story of a strong-minded woman, who knows she can do greater things at the time when they are not done by many women. With unlimited love and sense of morality that has only grown stronger during the war years, she has the capacity to become the leader of many.
Testament of Youth is emotional and picturesque, a collision of yesterday’s peace, today’s war and tomorrow’s choice.
So, if you ever feel like diving into something completely fascinating, intelligent and thought-provoking at the same time, add Testament of Youth to your “to-watch” list. You will not regret it.
Written by Anastsiya Manko