Is there anything more romantic than love during wartime? With the threat of death hanging over you at any time, its likely to deepen any sexual connection you have to someone into something much more potent and meaningful. Think Casablanca, The English Patient or Dr Zhivago, some of the greatest, sweeping romances take place under the backdrop of tanks and bombs and total annihilation.
Allied, which celebrated a new trailer yesterday, looks to follow these classics, depicting a love between two assassins — played by Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard — who look to stay together despite all the carnage going on around them. Zemeckis explains how he stumbled across the story:
“I was going out with an English girl at the time and her auntie lived in Texas, and she got talking about her brother who had been in the S.O.E., the British Secret Service if you like, and she told me this story that just stayed with me. I’ve always known it would be a film, and now it’s gonna be the ultimate.”
Check out the trailer below:
As the ending suggests, this romance isn't quite what it seems, with the distinct possibility that the woman in question is a Nazi spy. Its a hard life for Pitt, both on and off the screen. He can't seem to get anything right. Nevertheless, with only Zemeckis' word for it, can we believe that this is really a true story?
Love Across Enemy Lines Was Common
Whilst there are no more details about the 'true story' behind Allied other than Zemeckis' assertion that he heard it from some English woman in Texas, there have been multiple instances in which people from opposite sides during World War 2 have fallen in love despite the obvious barriers in their way. Not only was it highly dangerous to be seen together, in most European countries it was actually illegal until much after the war.
Yet love, as they say, is blind, and has the capacity to break down the walls of prejudice and see people for who they really are. The most common relationship was that between the French and Germans during the occupation, much to the consternation and embarrassment of the Free French resistors — resulting in something like 200,000 Franco-German babies. One of the most heartbreaking of these stories is the tale of:
Johann and Lisette
This story, unearthed by an American research assistant in Paris with a fondness for old letters, truly has a cinematic quality to it. It began in 1937, at the World Exposition in Paris. He was a handsome young man with dreams of becoming an architect. She was also pretty, living with her parents; concierges of a 19th Century apartment block. They would meet again three years later, when he came with the second wave of Germans to occupy the city.
During the summer of 1940, before the city-wide searches for Jews and brutal treatment of resistance members, Germans were under explicit instruction — mainly because there were so few — to behave gentlemanly in the city. That, coupled with the fact two million French men were currently incarcerated, many French women were lonely, and looked for romance with German men. The two met again at a Parisienne cafe, and continued their whirlwind romance. This was despite the fact that Johann had a wife and kids back home. They would wander though flea markets and go dancing in the local nightclubs.
At times Johann would be posted away from Lisette, and he wrote her many love letters in awkward French. In one letter he reflects on:
He would go on to acknowledge their differences, but that love was stronger than nationalism:
"Love alone is stronger than patriotism, a love like this one. I love France in you, and you will cherish Germany through me."
She was not so hopeful, and many of her letters are filled with anxiety and apprehension of what would become of them. By 1944, and the liberation of the city, she was rounded up and her head was shaved for being a collaborator. Luckily she avoided the fate of being paraded naked around the city with a swastika branded on her body, something which befell many French women, including actress Arletty, who responded with the immortal line: "My heart belongs to France, but my arse is international".
He was arrested and sent to a POW camp in Picardy, before being sent back to Baden-Baden in Germany. Never giving up, she joined the French auxiliary forces, and was posted as a secretary to the Army of Occupation there. When he was finally released, he divorced his current wife and they got married in 1949 and managed a hotel on Lake Constance together.
In a realistic twist in the tale, their fairytale romance was revealed to be nothing more than an illusion. Johann still retained a proclivity for younger women, and would spend more time chasing after pretty tourists than attending to their work. Soon after a robbery, the hotel was bankrupt and they had to live within their means. Nevertheless, perhaps reminiscent for the life they had together, she refused to leave him. He died in 1986. She never returned to her native France, and died fourteen years later, before being buried on the French-German border to honour both the country she was from, and the country she fell in love with.
For More True Stories See:
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- The True Story Behind A United Kingdom
- Dunkirk Trailer: The Real Stories Behind Nolan's Upcoming War Epic
Yet, it was not only Axis men falling in love with Allied women. Sometimes it was the other way around:
Harry and Friede
It was the tail-end of the War. Harry Leslie Smith was a radio operator for the RAF who had been tasked with landing in Hamburg with the Allied forces. At first he hated the Germans for the suffering that they placed upon the world, but soon his perspective changed and became more philosophical:
"when I saw their children living feral in the ruins of their neighbourhoods I knew that war punishes both the guilty and innocent".
The English bombing of Hamburg had created untold suffering, with over 50,000 Germans dying over the course of one three day raid alone. To put that in perspective, thats more than died during the entirety of The Blitz which befell London. Germans lived on rations, and would go to the marketplace to barter their heirlooms for basic necessities such as food. It was whilst smoking a cigarette by this marketplace that he first laid eyes upon Friede:
"there was something different about her – a dignity and a force of personality that I had never encountered before in my life."
He had to talk to her, and introduced himself. At first she was cautious of speaking to a soldier, but she allowed him to walk her close to her house and meet her later for a picnic. They fell in love quickly, but they had to keep it quiet, seeming as loving relationships — ones based on more than sex — were expressly forbidden under regulations. She wanted him to be happy, and begged him to return to Yorkshire; but he refused, he was in love. And so, they spent the cruel winter of '46 together in the crumbling city of Hamburg. Finally, in July of that year, the law changed and they got married a year later before moving back to England.
He says rather sweetly of her:
"although she died in 1999, I knew every day that she was alive, and even now, that without her my life would have been smaller, less hopeful and less bright"
The question remains for Allied — will it turn into a thriller, as he slowly uncovers her hidden side, or will love triumph over their seemingly irreconcilable differences? We shall find out on November 23, 2016, when the film is released.
Are You Excited To See Allied?