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War is Over!

ElectroLeague, 2023

11 minutes


Dave Mullins / Dave Mullins and Sean Lennon

Reading Time:

4 minutes

📷 : Photo from Pixabay

War is Over!Storyteller (ISEAHXTOBZNX3FRV)
00:00 / 04:14
War is Over!


Image of tea brew

Thought-provoking movies/shows


Image of tea brew

Movies and TV shows in cold weather and blizzard conditions

Chris Chaisson


I spend a lot of time playing chess online, mostly against one of the many bots that are free to play against. His name is Antonio, and I can’t stand him or his stupid pre-programmed responses. My resentment is built up from having played him dozens (hundreds) of times, and I have reached the conclusion that it is way too easy to start new games and play over and over again. If it took more of a concerted effort, I may appreciate the game and my opponent more. Now pluck me from the comfort of my heated apartment unit and into a more primal setting, and this game may become my only escape.  

War movies can be dark, grisly and bleak. Despite the critical acclaim many receive (i.e. Platoon, Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, The Hurt Locker), they can be a tough second watch, particularly for the squeamish. Nonetheless, the genre consists of some of the most visually stunning works cinema has seen, thanks to creative filmmakers and sizable budgets. The biggest challenge for war movies, one could argue, is instilling their story with a glimmer of hope for the audience to take with them as they file out of the theater. Particularly when based on real-life events, this challenge can prove too much, if embraced at all. Dave Mullins' Oscar-winning short, War is Over!, pulls off this feat by juxtaposing war with a fun board game.

This critically acclaimed animated work takes place during World War I, as a pair of soldiers on opposite sides of the battlefield become entrenched in a spirited game of chess. Both have their own board set up and communicate their moves via carrier pigeon. The pigeon takes the messages containing the newest move back and forth across the battlefield, dodging flying projectiles to reach the other side. The catch is that neither soldier really knows who the opponent is, let alone that they are technically an enemy. The game becomes an escape not just for the two, but for the soldiers around them who observe and cheer their comrades on.

The fun comes to an end when a general discovers the game and berates his soldiers for taking part instead of focusing on the mission at hand. He knocks the board over and even physically assaults his soldier to teach him a lesson. Forced back into battle, the soldier ends up engaged with his chess opponent in a fight to the death before their carrier pigeon finds them in the middle of the battlefield. Is the realization of their connection enough to stop the violence?

While only 11 minutes, War is Over! highlights several unfortunate truths. For instance, in the course of their training, soldiers are often forced to purge any shred of their individuality. This tactic makes it easier for them to dehumanize their enemy and even themselves to a large degree. The display of a soldier playing a game he enjoys and the response from his general show the deliberate attempt to suppress any humanity that may come about during wartime. The fact that the soldier is able to bond unknowingly with someone on the other side shows that there is common ground to be had, even among senseless violence.

Aside from any war themes, the biggest takeaway from War is Over! is that limitations create not only bonds but increased levels of passion. Many people might like chess or any other game, but playing via carrier pigeon takes a different level of dedication. In our comfortable, tech-filled lives, many modes of communication have made it too convenient for us to discover what, or who, we care about the most. While our productivity has been boosted, we no longer must give the same effort to maintain relationships or follow through on promises. So the next time you think of a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while, pull out your feathered quill and parchment and send them a handwritten, bird-delivered hello (kidding).

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