The conscientious Objectors
Archibald Baxter (Fraser Brown) was one of a group of fourteen men from New Zealand who in 1917 found themselves on the end of constant punishment from the military for being conscientious objectors. Refusing to wear the clothes of war or carrying guns Baxter and his comrades were beaten, hosed, thrown in cells, tied to poles and all sorts of other barbaric punishments to try and break them and make them join the fight. But the determination and belief of the men who refuse to be broken earns the respect of others who despite being labelled cowards were clearly anything but.
When it comes to war movies about conscientious objectors I have only come across a few and never one as in your face as "Field Punishment No.1" the story of 14 conscientious objectors from New Zealand during WWI with the focus of the movie being on Archibald Baxter. This is a movie which visually is impressive and doesn't hold back when showing us what Baxter and his comrades went through as they refused to fight in the war. We see these men starved, beaten, tied to poles in the mid of a snowy field and so much more all because they refused to become soldiers and fight.
But whilst what we see has a huge impact it is also what "Field Punishment No.1" says which is equally as powerful as we see these men whilst called cowards were anything but. Seeing these men refusing to put on the clothes of war and get blasted with a hose for refusing is not the act of a coward, nor is refusing to march to the front line and so end up being dragged over the make shift wooden path where the nails sticking out ripped into their already blistered skin. As such we actually get to see how some of the soldiers respected these objectors for not being cowards and standing up to what they believed in especially in the face of such inhumane treatment.
The only real problem I have with "Field Punishment No.1" is not bringing across the reasons. By that whilst I took it that in Archibald's case he objected to not wanting to fight someone else's war it may have been just a general objection to war full stop and the insanity of it. I also didn't understand why the army were so hell bent on dragging these objectors to the front line when all they were was a thorn in their sides. Basically a bit more depth would have sealed this for me as a really great movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Field Punishment No.1" impressed me in a way I hadn't expected as it was not only well made but made an impact when it came to telling the story of these conscientious objectors. But it just lacked that bit of depth to make it complete for me as it didn't give us enough of the reasons why from both sides of the issues.