Directed by: #TyreesALamptey
Written by: #DavidBarbeschi
If we dare to imagine hell it might take us to a trench during World War I; worse still it might put us on the ramparts awaiting a signal to go over the top. But just who was the enemy in that bloody conflict? Was it a nation, its politicians or the men who fought to defend an ideal? Such dilemma is explored in this brilliant short film Pawns by Tyrees A. Lamptey.
It begins with the tranquillity of two elderly gentlemen enjoying a game of chess. The action quickly switches to a dark trench and a young man struggling to keep his hands still; is it the cold or fear making him tremble? He takes one last look at a fob watch inlaid with a picture of his sweetheart. Then confusion and adrenaline combine as a battalion of Tommies stumble toward the enemy. One Tommy, Will (James Downie) confronts Karl (Julian Michael Deuster), who offers his nemesis a cigarette.
Will is contemplating his next move when the German trench is hit by a salvo from British guns. A landslide buries both men inside the shelter. They begin to talk and the realisation dawns they are not so different. They have families back home and share the same fundamental aspiration: to live a happy life. All that divides them is their uniform and language. Purity and simplicity shine through as the two men settle down to a game of chess using bullets as pawns. The symbolism is powerful and engaging as our attention turns to the least valuable chess piece: one that can be easily sacrificed. We are cleverly reminded that ordinary lives were expendable in the First World War; victims of a lethal game that nobody truly won.
In many respects, the story draws inspiration from the fabled Christmas Truce of 1914, when British and German troops met in no man's land to exchange gifts and engage in a kick about. To use such a template gives the story structure and shape. Each shot is beautifully framed, capturing the true horror of war; the script is bright and perceptive, avoiding undue sentiment but presenting an essential truth. The leading actors deliver sensitive, well measured performances and remain utterly convincing. Pawns quite rightly belongs in the canon of work compiled to mark the centenary of armistice day. A concise history lesson we should all learn and inwardly digest.