Dunkirk: what is Operation Dynamo, at the heart of Christopher Nolan's film?  - Cinema News

Dunkirk: what is Operation Dynamo, at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s film? – Cinema News

Olivier Pallaruelo

Olivier Pallaruelo

Cinema journalist / Video games editorial manager

Nourished by VHS and genre films, Olivier Pallaruelo willingly abandons fiction to immerse himself in reality with documentaries and topical subjects. In love with physical media, he has also spent a lot of time in front of video games since his earliest childhood.

Broadcast tonight on France 3, Nolan’s “Dunkirk” was above all a rather crazy sensory and visceral experience indoors, thought of as a survival horror. But delivered very little information on Operation “Dynamo”, yet at the heart of the film.

Warner Bros.

Released in 2017, Christopher Nolan’s war film Dunkirk, broadcast tonight on France 3, was in theaters an incredible sensory and visceral experience, thought to be a kind of survival horror, in the words of the filmmaker. If this artistic bias has divided criticism, some have also criticized the filmmaker for having almost completely evacuated the entire historical context of the events described in the film: the operation Dynamo.

The Dunkirk debacle is undoubtedly one of the symbols of the lightning defeat of France in the face of the surge of the German armies. A terrible humiliation when a few months before, when France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939, the Chief of Staff, General Gamelin, declared himself confident: “If necessary, we will enter Germany like butter”

In June 1940, the Franco-British armies, which had advanced into Belgium to contain the advance of the German armies, were caught in a pincer movement between the forces which had come from the Netherlands and those which passed further south through the Ardennes. Hitler then spoke of the greatest victory of all time and even wanted to establish June 14 as a national holiday in Germany.

In retreating, the Allied forces finally found themselves surrounded at Dunkirk. The operation “Dynamo” was then put in place (because it was prepared in the dynamo room of Fort Dover in Great Britain); one of the largest evacuation operations in military history. Everything that could float was requisitioned, including simple pleasure craft (370 in total).

During nine days, until June 4, this evacuation, carried out in absolutely dramatic conditions, under the grape-shot and the bombs of the German Stukas, made it possible to repatriate nearly 338,000 men, mainly British. Winston Churchill then spoke of “miracle of Dunkirk”; a miracle which in spite of everything left between 35,000 and 40,000 soldiers prisoners in the hands of the German troops who entered the city on June 4.

Below, archival footage filmed by Pathé, of the evacuation.

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