A famous quote reads ‘Only the dead have seen the end of the war,’ (there’s a war in the attribution of this quote too, google that). BBC’s offering, available in India on SonyLIV, World On Fire is an immaculate exploration of what war does to the ordinary people. When does it end? Is it just about the men fighting on the battleground? No. There’s an inner war that the families and the civilians fight too. Writer Peter Bowker is here to tell you what that battle looks like.
Cast: Jonah Hauer-King, Julia Brown, Helen Hunt, Zofia Wichlacz, Sean Bean, Lesley Manville, Brian J. Smith and ensemble
World On Fire Review: What’s It About?
Set amid the horrifying ordeal called the World War ll, World On Fire follows the lives of ordinary people suffering the outcomes of the war. There’s love, brotherhood, family, responsibility, and the struggle to stay alive. But all of this is dependent on a bullet that follows everyone all the time. The show takes place in Britain, Poland, France, Germany and the United States. The Nazi leader Hitler is rigorously taking over countries after countries and the after-effects are something we can’t even imagine.
World On Fire Review: What Works?
I have always been a person who has been curious to know the story of the blink and miss characters in any war drama. Writer Peter Bowker with his BBC offering takes the responsibility to tell their stories.
Now, all this time the war movies have been the conflicts that occur on the war ground, and Bowker understands that quite well. So he changes the focus to the civilians and their problems. While the pain and longing of the families of army men is evident and moving, the writer cleverly tells you what it feels to have an epileptic daughter in the Nazi regime, what it feels to be a gay man, what it is being a black man looked at as a danger even when you are just an artist.
The Oscar-nominated Jojo Rabbit that starred Scarlett Johansson was also a representation of what happens away from the war. But it was mainly how a kid saw it. World On Fire is brutal, because to gaze is grown up. Here you are taken deep into what the Nazi regime stood for.
The aforementioned epileptic angle is something that was never explored. We all have heard how Germans wanted to have the strongest ‘master race’, so they killed the weaklings. For eg: if a kid has a medical problem, he is killed. The reason, he isn’t strong to take the race ahead. And this is just one of the weird brutalities that happened away from the war.
There’s a love triangle too, but I won’t spoil the tender yet boldness of it. Harry (Jonah Hauer-King), Lois (Julia Brown), and Kasia (Polish actress Zofia Wichlacz) play their parts with a heart-breaking innocence. The show is blessed with many such wonderful actors including Game Of Thrones fame Sean Bean who portrays Lois’ father with fear and if you can invest yourself as an audience, he will make you too feel that.
Writer Peter Bowker does sketch out some brilliant men, but he masters in writing some of the strongest women a very few war dramas have had. While Zofia and Julia are an epitome of strength in their own ways, Lesley Manville (Robina, Harry’s mother) deserves a special mention and all the awards. Lesley gets the best dialogues and she justifies them with her calibre. I am personally a fan of her comebacks. The shows opens up to her saying something to the effect of ‘Modesty is an ugly trait in those with the ability to shine,’ and I was instantly sold.
Another strong woman is Helen Hunt’s, Nancy Campbell. A journalist who has no fear to report what’s true. Hunt plays her part with fire.
World On Fire is very high on production design, and it looks authentic. With the help of compelling cinematography, it adds on the charm. A scene where a funeral is being held with just Kasia standing amid the rubble after the bombing is still haunting me.
World On Fire Review: What Doesn’t Work?
PS: the show is renewed for season 2 and my doubts below might be answered then.
What didn’t work for me was the portion of the end where lovers meet, the circumstances actually, (you will see). It seemed rushed, and not impactful.
We don’t really know if Albert (Parker Sawyers) survives. I hope the second seasons explores his part or at least gives him an ending. He and Brian J. Smith’s Webster deserve it.
World On Fire Review: Last Words:
If war dramas are your gig you have to watch World On Fire. In case they aren’t, watch this one and you will fall in love. There isn’t sugar-coating here, it is what happened, it is what the survivors of the war have gone through. Because it isn’t just the battleground where the war takes place, there are always wars within too.