“Benediction” is a biographical drama film depicting the struggle of the now famous English war poet Siegfried Sassoon to cope with the effects of war on his life. Presumably most of the events presented in the film are factual and it features a number of real-life characters from the era. Director Terence Davies employs an intentionally slow and progressive pace in his work, something that works very well with Sassoon as a person and his poetic works, and “Benediction” is an enjoyable experience for those who love the style.
Plot Summary ‘Blessing’
The film begins around 1914, the first time Siegfried and his younger brother Hamo were both sent to war as part of the British Army. After a few bouts of trench fever, he returned to duty, much to the helpless dismay of his mother. However, soon enough, Siegfried was done with the war, having witnessed the horrific cruelty of it, and penned his famous “Soldier’s Declaration”, which is read in the film as a backdrop to the footage. of the First World War. The letter, which contained Sassoon’s questioning of the political betrayal that he said was prolonging the war beyond any point of mere defense against enemies, caused a stir within the administration and the man would have been subjected to a court-martial which could have led to his execution. But, with the help of his influential and high-ranking family, which he strongly opposes in the film, Siegfried is saved from such a predicament and must justify his actions before a panel of three high officials. When the man, already a practicing poet at the time, kept defending his words before this panel and denying any kind of chauvinistic nationalism, he was finally deemed unfit for service and sent to a hospital for nervous diseases in Scotland.
Upon arrival at Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh, Sassoon began treatment for neurasthenia. Amidst a generally unwelcoming environment, as most officials were now aware of his anti-war stance, Siegfried developed a warm and friendly relationship with the doctor in charge of the hospital, Dr. Rivers. The two men spend sessions talking about Siegfried’s experiences, thoughts and ideas related to the war and its terrors. It was also at Craiglockhart that Sassoon met a young man aspiring to become a poet, named Wilfred Owen. Over the next few weeks, the two developed a budding relationship, with Owen having immense respect for his elder. A possible romance may have also grown between the two, as they are seen sharing sparks of chemistry while indulging in ball dancing, much to the frustration of their military superiors. This era and this relationship also immensely shaped the young poet’s exceptional poetry, making Wilfred Owen the historical figure he became. However, before their romantic interest could be expressed by either, Owen was released from the hospital and returned to duty, where he died a week before the end of the war, and Sassoon is then returned to his usual life in England.
How did the Great War leave a devastating impression on Siegfried Sassoon?
After returning to England, Siegfried found the company of art critic and dealer Robbie Ross and, through him, became acquainted with other figures in British high society who were also involved in art. He became acquainted with the aristocrat Lady Ottoline Morrell and also turned her down when she approached him. It was through a similar venture that he first met the famous actor and singer of the time, Ivor Novello. Sparks flew instantly and the pair became romantically involved very quickly, much to the dismay of Ivor’s ex-lover, Glen Byam Shaw. While Siegfried’s relationship with Ivor lasted for some time, the intrinsic differences between the two, particularly regarding Ivor’s brash and arrogant nature, began to sour after a while. Siegfried gradually realized that he was cut off from Ivor’s life (literally not being on the guest list at Ivor’s performances), and the two eventually had a hard and ugly breakup. He also learned that Ivor was already in a long-term commitment to another man, Bobby Andrews, which further intensified the animosity. Sometime later, Siegfried became involved with both Glen Byam Shaw and worldly aristocrat Stephen Tennant, but ultimately chose to be with Tennant. However, this relationship also did not last long, as Sassoon could not live with Tennant’s decadent lifestyle and life choices. Not long ago, while still with Ivor, Siegfried had met a woman named Hester Gatty at one of the social parties, and the woman had immediately shown a gentle and subtle interest in him. At a time when he was grieving over the failing relationships in his life, Siegfried met Hester again, and the two fell in love. Sassoon confided his troubled spirit to Hester, and their romantic relationship only grew from there. The couple eventually married in a very private ceremony and then continued to live together for the rest of most of their lives. Although they had a falling out after many years, “Benediction” doesn’t dwell on it much as she is only seen leaving the house, saying that she is going to Scotland in their old age, and that we don’t see her after that.
All the while, Siegfried’s memories and traumas of the war came to mind – both his own participation in the parody as well as later reports about him when he had already established himself as a poet. anti-war. All of these mental disorders present themselves throughout the film, with images of the war accompanied by Sassoon’s poems being read. The man also kept in affectionate contact with his mother, whom he often visited to discuss his life or have her read his new writings. At one point, as Siegfried and Hester gradually grow closer, Hester says that judging from his writings, she sensed he would be very intense or dark, and was quite pleasantly surprised that he wasn’t. . “Blessing” aims to give a similar perspective on the individual that Siegfried Sassoon was beyond the poet persona for which he is now known. To get into his character, the film largely follows the romantic relationships he’s been involved in, one after another, and such a presentation also drives the point home. Siegfried’s frequent search for emotional and romantic gratification was perhaps strongly influenced by the loneliness and terrible fears that plagued him during the war. Before writing “Soldier’s Declaration”, Sassoon had dealt with the loss of friends in the military, which became one of the main revelations for him. His brother Hamo had also died during the Gallipoli War. Also, perhaps because of the constant losses he had to face and live with, the man could never stay settled in relationships, that too after jumping with someone he felt to show his support and concern for even a slight moment. The film uses a leap between two timelines – his young life and his old age, and in scenes from the latter, Siegfried is seen still grappling with the effect of war on his mind and life. Although born a Jew, he had turned towards Catholicism towards the end of his life, a decision his son George did not really agree with. George’s birth and childhood was something Siegfried experienced very well, as he immediately expressed to his wife after giving birth. He tells Hester that their son is the one his life will revolve around now, and Hester reminds him that he told her the same thing when they fell in love. Unable to comment on any individual, thought or situation, certainly because of the war if such an assessment is true, Siegfried Sassoon remained tragically unable to share his deepest emotions and fears with anyone despite the writing from his heart on the horrible triviality of war.
‘Blessing’ Ending Explained: What Happens to Siegfried Sassoon?
In the end, after Hester also leaves Siegfried, the man finds himself alone with his son George, with whom he still shares a close bond. Noticing his sulky father, George tries to snap him out of this mental state and perhaps only succeeds for a while. Siegfried opens up to his son about the angst he still feels from the war, and also a very personal frustration at not being as celebrated and rewarded as TS Elliot and others. Sassoon, as a poet, did indeed gain the recognition he deserved as a war poet much later, perhaps even after his death in the truest sense of the word. After a few days, father and son go to see a musical, and after the show Siegfried asks for some alone time and goes home alone. He sits on a bench on which he seems to have often sat many years in his youth. Sitting here, a young Sassoon watches a soldier walk out of a hospital but with both of his legs amputated. In the background is the voice of Wilfred Owen as he asks Sassoon what he thinks of his new poem, titled “Disabled”, and he reads it aloud, as Sassoon visualizes the events of the room. Siegfried bursts into helpless desolation as he cries uncontrollably, struck by the state of the soldier and certainly by the similar or worse fate of millions of people after the two great wars. At this point, he also definitely remembers his dear friend Wilfred Owen, whom he and the whole world lost at the unfortunate age of twenty-five.
“Benediction” pays little attention to the poetic figure of Siegfried Sassoon, but that does not make the film lose a lot of poetic meaning. It is very well presented without looking like a chronicle of events in Sassoon’s life. Instead, Terence Davies gives it a nice, enchanting flow that makes it easy to get into Sassoon’s character. The choice to use poems, read by Jack Lowden (as young Siegfried Sassoon) and Peter Capaldi (as the poet’s elder), works very well with the whole construction and has a very moving effect. The overall storyline, writing, and performance are also worth mentioning, as they all tie “Benediction” to a finely crafted biopic.
“Blessing” is a 2022 drama biographical film directed by Terence Davies.