The new film based on RC Sherriff’s great World War One play, and subsequent novelization, Journey’s End, was released on 2 February 2018 by Lionsgate.
Throughout filming, the production company, Fluidity Films, kept Surrey History Centre up to date with developments (see previous blog https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/film-editing-stage/), and there were tantalising tweets and images of scenes on the set from cast. Staff from Surrey History Centre were privileged to attend the ‘cast and crew’ film premier at The Picture House Cinema, London, on 21 May 2017, although we were sworn to secrecy about the final cut, until now. Images courtesy of Di Stiff, Surrey Heritage.
This modern film adaptation, directed by Saul Dibb, and produced by Simon Reade and Guy de Beaujeau, is gritty, brutal in places, and very much true to the original feel and message that Sherriff aimed to convey. Written ten years after the Armistice, Journey’s End was not an anti-war play; it simply related Sherriff’s experiences as he witnessed them. Throughout his service he corresponded almost daily with his parents and his letters are filled with a desperate yearning for a safe return to his loving family. Censorship and a desire not to disturb his parents too much prevented him from writing the unvarnished truth. Sherriff drew extensively on his letters when writing his unpublished war memoirs, which inspired him to write Journey’s End. This new film captures both the horror and trauma of the trenches, as well as the humour and comradeship.
Genius casting for the film sees Paul Bettany as the supportive Lieutenant Osborne (‘Uncle’), Sam Claflin as war weary Captain Stanhope, Asa Butterfield as newly posted officer, Raleigh, Toby Jones as soldier-cook, Mason, Stephen Graham as mild-mannered Second Lieutenant Trotter, and Tom Sturridge as hard-drinking Second Lieutenant Hibbert.
Central to the making of the film has been Fluidity Films’ work with, and support of, Combat Stress, the charity that cares for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the play and film, Stanhope suffers from (undiagnosed) PTSD or ‘shell shock’ and Hibbert hides his trauma behind alcohol. Sherriff would have empathized – as a result of the constant noise of bombardment in the trenches, he himself suffered from what at the time was diagnosed as ‘neuralgia’. In his letters home Sherriff writes about these traumatic conditions and his shredded nerves.
Journey’s End has been a constant feature of the National Curriculum and we are sure that this new film version will encourage more people to discover RC Sherriff’s wide literary legacy.
The film’s website, and trailer, giving all the details, can be found at http://www.fluidityfilms.co.uk/journey-s-end
Twitter @JourneysEnd2017. Search Twitter #journeysend for more.
Journey’s End producer Guy de Beaujeu hopes the new film adaption will inspire the public to visit CWGC cemeteries and memorials, http://blog.cwgc.org/blog/journeys-end
Find out more about RC Sherriff, his collections and comrades, at Surrey History Centre https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/themes/people/writers/sherriff/
Roland Wales, author of the new RC Sherriff biography From Journey’s End to the Dam Busters: The Life of R.C. Sherriff, Playwright of the Trenches (2016, Pen & Sword) has reviewed the film at https://www.rolandwales.com/journeys-end-movie-2017/. Roland’s blog features Sherriff’s letters home from the trenches on the date they were written, one hundred years to the day, see www.rolandwales.com. Read Roland’s mini biography of RC Sherriff, written for Lionsgate and The Telegraph as part of the film’s promotional campaign, here (pdf ).
Read the Commonwealth War Graves Commission blog “The real soldiers of Journey’s End“.
Watch Roland Wales’ video about the authenticity of Journey’s End (YouTube):