1864: A review

I watched the original TV series when it was broadcast on TV in the UK back in 2015, and recently I bought a copy of the DVD of the feature film version. I managed to watch it today.

In order to reduce the original eight part series so that it will be only two hours long, the numerous subplots from the original TV series have been omitted. The film tells the story of two brothers – Laust and Peter – and their involvement in the war. This makes it a much more focused and – in my opinion – a much better film to watch.

The first twenty minutes of the film relates the background to the lives of the two brothers, after which it concentrates on telling the story of the war through their eyes.

The quality of the battle scenes is remarkable, and in some of them one can almost feel that one is actually there. It is interesting to see how the film’s director has referenced scenes from famous paintings and illustrations done in the aftermath of the war. The following stills give some impression of how impressive their achievement has been:

I recommend the DVD of the film version of this series to anyone who has an interest in The Second Schleswig War of 1864.


Below are some of the images produced after the war that were referenced in the film:

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14 Comments on “1864: A review”

  1. Steven Page says:

    Very timely, Bob, as I am finishing the bases on my Danes today. I am goin gto use them with Neil Thomas's “Wargaming Nineteenth Century Europe”. The views of the fortifications are especially welcome.
    -Steve

  2. Steven Page,

    Sounds like an interesting project! Did you watch the series on TV? If not, I recommend this film version, which has most of the military action in it and excludes almost all of the social and political subplots.

    All the best,

    Bob

  3. Pete. says:

    Good review Bob- always like it when you do them.

    For someone has not seen the series would you recommend the full or edited version for a first time watch?

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  4. Steven Page says:

    I have not seen either. I was drawn to this conflict as a child, when i saw the uniforms in Preben Kannick's wonderful Blandford book. I drew paper soldiers for this period when I saw about twelve. now, I happily own about 1 figures for the Danes, ans 'way too many' for the German-Austrian forces.

  5. Pete.,

    I am glad that you enjoyed this review.

    The TV series has several subplots that are missing from the film version.

    The subplots include one that revolves around a modern day young girl (whose brother has been killed whilst serving in Afghanistan with the Danish Army) who discovers the diary of the woman involved in the main story, and the young girl's relationship with an old man who she is sent care for … who turns out to be the descendant of one of the main characters involved in the main story.

    Another subplot deals with the political machinations that lead up to the outbreak of the war, and the impact of the defeat on the Danish nation.

    If the subplots appeal, then go for the TV version; if you just want to concentrate on the military aspects of the war, chose the film version.

    I hope that is of help.

    All the best,

    Bob

  6. Steven Page,

    I first heard about the war when studying for my A Levels (Europe 1815 to 1914), and was also intrigued by the illustrations in the Kannick book.

    My recent interest came as a result of a visit to the military museum in Copenhagen, where they had a display about the war. One look … and I was hooked! If only I had the time and money to paint the figures that I need.

    All the best,

    Bob

  7. Thanks for the review. I enjoyed the TV series, but will get the DVD of the film as the military content is all that I would be be interested in seeing again. Very tempted to do this war in 54mm. I have a photocpied book on the Danish army from Helion, but there seems to be little information out there on uniforms.

  8. Springinsfeld,

    I hope that you enjoy the DVD of the film.

    54mm would be a great scale to 'do' this war in. As for uniform detail, have a look at this earlier blog entry. The images will enlarge if you click on them.

    All the best,

    Bob

  9. Steven Page says:

    In America, we operate under the assumption that nothing happened in Europe between the War of 1812 and our “Saving Europe” in WW1. Thank God my parents invested a lot of time in hauling me around between two branch libraries and several bookstores. I was cynical before I left elementary school.

  10. Steven Page,

    I wish that I could say that things were better in the UK, but most Brits have little or no idea about their history. When I gave up teaching, history had become an optional subject after the age of 14 … and was taught thematically before that age.

    It also had a not very covert 'political' content or bias. For example, our pupils were taught about slavery and the slave trade in America … but we were not allowed to mention that most people sold into slavery were sold by coastal African tribes to white traders, and that the East African slave trade was run by the Arabs until almost the beginning of the twentieth century. These facts were 'inconvenient' and did not fit the political agenda that our political masters wanted propagated.

    All the best,

    Bob

  11. nundanket says:

    I'd be interested to see how this works as a feature-length film having only seen the TV series. But I would recommend to anyone interested in this as a period to watch the whole TV series. The political and social background informs the plot of the two brothers going to war, and their relationship with the officers. Without that, it just looks like a bonkers decision by the Danes to go to war with Prussia and Austria. I remember 'doing' the 2nd Schleswig-Holstein War in O-level history, but only as a step in the German re-unification process. OK, it still looks like a bonkers decision by the Danish government, but the machinations and the nationalism portrayed at least make it sort of explicable in mid-19th Century terms.

    I found the social background fascinating too. That tension between a near feudal regime and there being a sense that the peasants had rights enshrined in custom. It seemed like this was another aspect of the change in direction in Danish history post 1864. And obviously there's the direct link between the relationship with the local lord and one's regimental officer.

    The modern sub-plot with the brother's death in Afghanistan, seemed to be a reminder of the pain and the shock of 1864. It seemed to be saying, 'let's not go there again'. I wasn't convinced by the twist in the story of the family history though.

    But most importantly, without the political backdrop we wouldn't have so much of Sidse Babett Knudsen to enjoy either!

  12. Pete. says:

    Thanks for the extra info Bob. I think I will go for the longer version (though I'm primarily interested in the military side) as the political biuld up is of interest and I feel that I was missing something out if I didn't.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

  13. Pete.,

    I am very pleased to have been of assistance … and I hope that you enjoy the longer version.

    All the best,

    Bob

  14. Nundanket,

    I agree that the series makes for very interesting viewing, and does explain the reasons why Denmark – a country that nowadays seems to play a very minor role in European politics – was a much more important state in the middle of the nineteenth century. I also enjoyed watching the representation of the somewhat ineffective British 'involvement' in trying to stop the war, especially as Queen Victoria was related by marriage to the ruling families on both sides of the conflict.

    The social history covered in the TV series – both during the mid nineteenth century and in present-day Denmark – was very informative … but for the majority of wargamers I suspect that they would have had their finger on the 'fast forward' button during those sections!

    All the best,

    Bob

    PS. Have you read the book that the series was based on? It is excellent!


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