To be baptized into the trenches, on film, requires historical knowledge, but also an expensive pyrotechnic arsenal. This can be done, but when it is overdone, the viewer is left with a dazzling shell shock that does less to educate than to confuse.
St. George Shoots the Dragon, a Serbian film, brings to life the Balkans at a critical age. It does not shell shock the viewer, but also, fails to enlighten.
Serbia, unlike most places in the world, has been at perpetual war for nearly a thousand years. It is therefore likely that an exposition of their participation in battle will accompany a Laconic wit that borders on gallows humor.
To watch this film is to witness the life that Nichola Tesla left when he came to America: The Balkans are rustic, superstitious and war torn. Invalids roam about towns in search of their next drink, and all able-bodied men are on the front at any one point in time, if not fighting the Turks, then fighting the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.
SGSTD deals with the issue of infidelity during war: what happens when young men leave their sweethearts behind only to come back as cripples, and what happens if they don’t come back at all. Apparently, this issue is very large, but it is rarely spoken of in books and on film.
I would give this film a solid three stars, simply for bringing to life another time and era, something that most historical films truly fail to do. Usually I feel that the creators of such films are just voicing their own beliefs and feel that their ideas will be enhanced by exotic-looking costumes.
That being said, this is no Paths of Glory. Trench warfare is shown for its deep brutality, but really only touched upon. Also, the major issue I have with the film is the liberty that it took portraying The Battle of Cer: the film depicts regiments of limbless veterans charging over the top. There is absolutely no historical evidence that such an event ever took place.
I would recommend this film if one wants to delve into the psychology of love during war, and/or one wants to see what life was like at the turn of the 20th century in Southeastern Europe, but I would not recommend it as a first film to watch if one wants to get a feel for what World War One was really like, simply because it does not do justice to the realities of the trenches, and does not pay attention to historical accuracy the way that such a topic deserves.
A true World War One film would pay attention not only to the hard fought battles, but also to the monotony of trench digging, foot rot, and bureaucracy that accompanied this war.