Tony Richardson’s Charge of the Light
For example, what is Vanessa Redgrave doing in the movie? She was big box office, after Blow-Up and Camelot, but her character in Light Brigade is a superfluous distraction. She sleeps with her husband’s best friend, but other than demonstrating the impenetrable superficiality of the ruling classes, it has no dramatic purpose. For another, they don’t manage to make it entirely clear why Cardigan leads the Light up the wrong valley, and charges directly into the Russian cannon, instead of flanking them – which leaves a pretty big hole in its pretense to historical accuracy.
being said, the movie has wonderful virtues.
The production design, which conjures up the dense ecosystems of David
Lean’s postwar Dickens adaptions, and the cinematography by David Watkin, he of
Robin and Marian, Chariots of Fire, and Night Falls on Manhattan. But chiefly, the inspired casting. Some of the actors weren’t even
Howard and Harry Andrews aside, there’s the gloriously nasal John Gielgud as Raglan; the inimitable Peter Bowles (later of Rumpole) at his most fatuous, and Jill Bennett as his lion-hunter of a wife; tragically memorable, Norman Rossington, Albert Finney’s best mate in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, the Beatles’ manager in Hard Day’s Night, as the Sergeant Major compromised by his commanding officer, Cardigan, and broken to the ranks – one of the more brutal and graphic flogging scenes in any movie. David Hemmings, though, is disappointing in the pivotal role of Nolan, too languid and too pretty. (And reportedly insufferable during filming.)
other point to make is of course the context.
Like many pictures from the late 1960’s and early 70’s, Charge of the Light Brigade falls under
the shadow of
Charge of the Light Brigade came
out in 1968, after the Tet Offensive.
The timing is coincidental, but the movie’s antiwar sentiments were
sharpened considerably by what was widely viewed as an American military and
political embarrassment. (Historically,
it was a defeat for the NVA and Viet Cong, but the public perception in the
imagine we made peace with
Charge of the Light Brigade is a
moment frozen in time. Not the