The shell explodes. The ground rocks; the camera jolts. The men hurl themselves to the floor amid the chaos. The images refocus: several Ukrainian soldiers dressed in Khaki fatigues slowly stand up. Alongside them, an elegant white-haired man in a black suit and white shirt gets to his feet as well.
The man is world-renowned philosopher, journalist and war correspondent Bernard Henri Levy and the scene is from his new film Glory to the Heroes, which is out this week, and which emerges from the time he spent during summer 2023 in eastern Ukraine,
At 75 years old, Levy is still going to places that others won’t. Here, he is Chasiv Yar, near the city of Bakhmut, home to what was the fiercest battle of the war in Ukraine, that he was forced to dive for cover.
Levy believes that to understand conflict you need to go to the very front lines, and this is what he has done since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. His goal is twofold: to record for the world – and for history – the bravery of Kyiv’s resistance against brutal imperialism; and to bear witness to Russia’s relentless attacks on civilian populations wherever it goes.
Levy made his name in the 1970s as war correspondent reporting on the Bangladesh war of independence against Pakistan and as a philosopher taking on what he saw as the malignant fallacies of communism and its fellow travellers.
He has been fighting the same struggle – against forces of violence and autocracy that threaten us all – for almost fifty years.
This film is many things: a gripping narrative and a striking tale of heroism and suffering. But it is also something far more important: a necessary reminder that if Ukraine falls to the Kremlin’s aggression, it will be a blow against all of us in the West.
The Russians have long believed that we will abandon Ukraine just as they say we abandoned Iraq and Afghanistan. They believe the flow of assistance and weapons will dry up. The West, they believe, have no more stomach left for the fight.
Glory to the Heroes is a rebuttal to these attitudes; it is a rebuttal to the barbarism of Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine; and it is an affirmation of the Western values that we have had to fight to preserve for centuries.
From the Ukrainian amputee who tells Levy that losing her leg was the best day of her life because it made her understand the importance of what her country is fighting for, to the bombed-out Ukrainians refusing to leave their homes, to Ukraine’s brave soldiers, this films tells the story of the war in all its brutality, and in all its many tales of individual bravery and selflessness.
It is now more important than ever that the world understands what is happening in Ukraine and the desperate need to continue to support Kyiv in its fight against the brutal, modern-day Tsar Vladimir Putin. Glory to the Heroes. A fitting title indeed.
Glory to the Heroes, which is out in US cinemas on 8 December, with a UK release date yet to be announced.