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The movie then introduces us to the counterpart to the previous pomp: General Mireau walks through the trenches (filmed by Stanley Kubrick in those famous long tracking shots) cheering up disenchanted soldiers. Here, the real war takes place with soldiers living in the dirt, surrounded by death and misery.
Throughout the whole movie Kubrick juxtaposes images of violence with those of illusion and propaganda about patriotism.
Only the vigilant colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) stands in-between those two worlds. He is the one facing the order of taking the Ant Hill, but unlike the generals, Dax is not reckless and greedy, but has a sense of justice and humanity.

In his anti-war message Kubrick is not hitting against a particular character, he criticizes the whole system of war. One can see that when colonel Dax is trying to free the prisoners by telling Broulard about Mireau’s attempts on friendly fire, but Broulard has them executed anyway.
Instead, he confronts Mireau with these accusations at a dinner. For Broulard the execution was a done deal, he – as a part of the system – was just following a common pattern of punishment - namely execution. Mireau’s misbehavior is another case to be examined but has nothing to do with the punishment of the soldiers. Broulard seems to be acting just according to patterns and structures of a vast system. A system without any sign of humanity – and that’s what Kubrick seemingly couldn’t stand. So in Paths Of Glory he shows humanity clearly defeating over war. This is most obvious in the famous last scene, where his later wife Christiane Harlan plays a German singer, singing the song „The Faithful Hussar“.

This scene seems to be almost separated from the rest of the movie, contrasting the previous images of war, death and hypocrisy in a very strong way. For the soldiers it’s just a little moment of peace that’s beyond all numbness of war, it transcends all battle lines and gives them a minute of feeling alive before they have to move back to the front. At this point Kubrick’s anti war message reaches its climax and leaves no questions about it.
That is certainly one of the most powerful closing scenes in film history, attached to the collective memory of movie-lovers.  At the end Paths Of Glory is maybe a movie mostly about typical Kubrick themes: War, (in-) humanity and failure; and it garnered the 28 years old director a lot of fame/controversy for the first time in his career.

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