I have an Ancient, dear old friend, named Bill Baxter, an old high-school chum. He has made a career out of working the technical side of the film and television industry, and has had great success.
He recently delved into the other side of the art-form, and has written a masterpiece of a screenplay, called The White Mountain. The screenplay won an award in the World Series of Screenwriting, well deserved, and I imagine it is only a matter of time before this story is brought to the silver screen.
Bill was kind enough to send me copy to read, and I have just recently finished it. I thought I would share my thoughts.
First, I must preface my review by saying that I absolutely abhor war. It is the utmost in human failure. It is the worst face of humanity. It is chaos. It is murder. It is turmoil and anarchy, killing the belligerent and the innocent with reckless impunity. Bill’s screenplay captures the savage, tumultuous aspect of war perfectly. It is not nice, pleasant and linear, and it is certainly not meant to be Michael Bay summer blockbuster fun. It is not Arnold or Sylvester killing bad guys and cracking one-liners. It is not Bruce Willis saving the poor villagers from the evil drug lords. War is pure evil, no matter which side one finds themselves on, and follows no rules. Bill has expertly portrayed this.
The White Mountain tells the story of the Cretan Resistance to Nazi occupation during World War 2. It is worth noting that it was called World War 2 for a reason. No corner of the globe was spared. We all know about the invasion of Poland, the blitzkrieg, The Battle of the Bulge, The Rape of Nanking, Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but World War 2 took place in countless other, frequently forgotten, places. The island of Crete was one such place.
On May 20th, 1941, Nazi troops invaded the Greek island of Crete. Allied forces fought for as long as they could, but through various tactical blunders and failures in communications, the Allies were forced to abandon the island. Several Allied troops remained, and, along with the Cretan people, formed a resistance to the Nazi occupation. This is another fine example of the confusion of war; it’s not like the movies, people. Things can go wrong, and the whole tide of a confrontation can shift.
Bill’s screenplay centers around a British Special Operations agent named Xan Fielding. As an interesting aside, Fielding, after the war, provided translations for French books into English, including La Planète des Singes: The Planet of the Apes. Not making that up.
Anyway, Fielding is sent to Crete to make contact with and aid the Cretan resistance. The history of Bill’s story is easy to be found, but I must comment on his treatment of the story itself. It is masterfully told. It captures the confusion, chaos and crime of war perfectly. The characters are rich and engaging. Some of their struggles are absolutely heartbreaking. Much of the imagery is horrifying. The dialogue is sharp and fantastic; there are too many quotes that I wish I could list here, but I shan’t without Bill’s permission. But I did love: “But they’ve surrendered.”… “We haven’t.” That’s not to say that the entire script is somber; there a more than a few moments when the dialogue is delightfully witty, biting and sharp. Bill tells a tale of several characters, facing insurmountable odds, with very little support from their Allied taskmasters, as they struggle to liberate the island from the Nazis. Again, the history is known, but Bill weaves the several strands of characters together perfectly, and, at the end, the Germans, abandoned by their Italian allies, and led astray by the poor leadership of Berlin, are eventually defeated. As the history goes, Crete is not exactly liberated. Like the larger picture of the end of World War 2 itself, the clash between capitalism and communism begins almost immediately. This screenplay, then, is a perfect microcosm of the entire War itself.
One of the central themes, I found, is communication. It is key to both the occupying Nazis and the frequently tattered resistance. There is difficulty in several characters speaking to each other in different languages. And then there is the always present difficulty of trying to radio headquarters for instructions. Like I said, one of the many unfortunate aspects of war is confusion.
Ultimately, this is an extremely well-written, compelling, gripping and very realistic portrayal of war, skillfully written against the backdrop of the Island of Crete. Bill captures Cretan society, and the geography of the land, perfectly. I am quite confident that this screenplay has a bright future. Well done, Old Friend.