I went to see “Darkest Hour” (Joe Wright, 2017), about Churchill during WWII, or more accurately Churchill’s first steps in office as Prime Minister in WWII.
The thing that affected me most was a postscript at the end of the film. There were several, and one of them said that Churchill was voted out of office six months after the end of the war. In other words, the British people turned to him, instinctively, when they had to face the insanity of Hitler. To defeat the insane you require a man of integrity who isn’t afraid of being unpopular. But once you’ve defeated the evil insane murderer, or “that man”, as Churchill referred to him, the person of integrity is replaced with someone more pleasant.
I understand; I get it.
When there’s no other way “the people”, as they are alluded to in the film, push up a real leader, and when times are less turbulent they elect someone like Theresa May, fair and honest but ineffective with something as seemingly straightforward as Brexit. Imagine May dealing with 300,000 British soldiers stranded in Dunkirk and the prospect of a war of annihilation before her.
No, better not.
Maggie Thatcher could have done it maybe, not Theresa May. I guess the fact the Brits have Theresa May demonstrates they don’t yet think the problem of illegal immigration is real and acute. Not yet. In their heart they still believe they can be civil and sort this out in a gentlemanly manner. Good luck to them.
The Americans voted for Trump because “the people”, the American people in that case, recognized that these were rough times and something drastic needed to happen. We Israelis elect Bibi again and again because we deem him necessary (though you wouldn’t know this reading the Israeli main stream press); and Churchill was thought of as necessary by his people. The film even tries to give “the people” specific faces, and Prime Minister Churchill is seen taking the tube, asking fellow commuters what they think of the situation.
Another persona representing “the people” is, somewhat incongruously from my point of view, King George VI, who has a change of heart in the middle of the film and decides to back his belligerent PM after all. This royal embodiment of the spirit of the people is touchingly portrayed with the king coming to visit Churchill in his bedroom, to tell him he will back him on his plans for war.
The film ends with Churchill’s famous speech: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” Over dramatic and exactly what was required.
p.s. Churchill did serve an additional term as PM between 1951-1955.