It sometimes amazes me when I read film reviews that they seem to have been reviewing a different film to the one I saw. Take Catch 22, a brilliant book from Heller but many said the film didn’t match it.
Well of course it didn’t effing match it – it’s a film and there are limitations, not least in the length of it. It’s significant that Heller himself was pleased with the result and even said that, concerning the director’s embellishments here and there, if he, Heller, had thought of them, he’d have added them to the book.
To me, it’s a brilliant film and grips on another plane and in a way that the book couldn’t. The dark humour is superb and never descends into camp, as far as I can see. So, when reviewers say it is “bitsy” and that there are holes in it or that it’s “disjointed” – well of course it is – it’s a product of Yossarian’s mind, in a way.
Rape is horrible at any time but the scene where Yossarian is wandering through the town and far in the background is a brutal rape – that is what the film is about and about what war does to human values. There are many others too.
It came out at the wrong time , when serious commentary on the armed forces, in a negative way, just didn’t cut it and so the film bombed. One look at it though shows that the acting and the screenplay is quite above the norm and that’s why it’s become a cult film these days. Two years and 1500 bomber flights to get those scenes – that’s the sort of thing the filmmakers did but of course, that in itself doesn’t guarantee a good film.
One criticism has been that it the characters “don’t engage us emotionally”, that we “can’t have sympathy for” Yossarian and the others. This was written by a young lady journo, in her twenties. Again … and what? Of course it’s nothing you ever experienced, dear but you’re soon going to find out, I’m afraid.
The film doesn’t try to be grand, it doesn’t try to be Ben Hur or Apocalypse Now or even Mash. It’s just an honest and horrifying drift through a micro-dystopia, punctuated by bouts of grim humour, in fact with a humorous overtone throughout, on the verge of insanity.
It’s the tale of what we all have coming again in the next few years, if Them have their way.