As of this writing, it has been more than a week since I saw this film directed by George Clooney.
Whenever something lingers in my mind, the only real way to address it is by sitting down and writing it out. So, here we go.
This is a cool film. I love it because Clooney did a great job of revering art and humanity without making this a stoic, lifeless adherence to some elitist doctrine about art and art history. No disrespect to art history mind you.
In short, "The Monuments Men" is a tribute to the men who rescued whatever stolen art they could from the clutches of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Hitler's troops marched through Europe and destroyed art he considered degenerate. This included works by Picasso. People typically disparage or destroy what they don't understand. Have you noticed that art always seems to be the target? The Nazis also stole from museums works Hitler wanted for his own planned Fuhrer Museum.
This film could've gotten extremely heavy and depressing, but it really focuses on the heroism of the men and women who knew that - like people - art and culture shouldn't be a casualty of war. In short, they saved the day even though the Nazis destroyed a great many masterpieces.
One of the things that sticks with me is the fact that after stealing the masterworks of their choosing, the Nazis stored their bounty in huge rooms that they sealed off with bricks and mortar in remote caves.
Can you guess where I'm going with this?
First off, the pure evil of Hitler remains unbelievable. You know, the very act of stealing something and then hiding it so that no one can take it from you is the very height of duplicity and hypocrisy ... to say the least.
Yet what really gets to me is the belief that art should belong to a privileged few at the expense of all else. This unfortunate view of art continues until this very day. So many people treat art not quite, but almost the way Hitler did ... as a commodity to be plundered and manipulated for one's own purposes, be that purpose power, prestige or yes ... monetary.
Sound familiar? When are we going to realize that art really belongs to everyone? To use art as your very own play toy is to destroy its purpose and that very act makes art so small and turns it into a mere collection of trifles.
The true power of art will always remain in our ability to share it - not only the material art itself, but the knowledge of art as well. When we hoard art and use it to "distinguish" ourselves from others, we make our world and our own existence so small. When we enjoy art with a spirit of generosity, we expand our world and even stretch the boundaries of the universe.
"The Monuments Men," with its lovely cast and warm, accessible script, reminds us that art is an outward manifestation of us and our culture. Thank God we had heroes who were forward-thinking enough to literally give their lives for it.
As much as elitists like to claim they're the gatekeepers of art and culture, the TRUE gatekeepers are those who know it should be generously shared and preserved for all.