After winning the Jury's Special Prize in 1975 at the end of the 25th Berlinale, the American director Stewart Cooper decided to restore one of his most powerful films on the absurdity of war – and also the most richly documented, Overlord.
Photo of the film © RR
A mixture of war archives and fictional narration, this exploration of the journey of a 20-year-old man, from his training at the front to the Landings, encapsulates all the terrors and isolation of war with vivid authenticity. Overlord was the codename of the Normandy Landings in 1944. In 1968, Stuart Cooper's project was initially supposed to be a documentary on the Overlord Embroideries – a series of unique English tapestries. They had been commissioned in tribute to the Allies on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. However a quite different idea took root in Cooper's mind: the desire to film the fears of the soldiers in black and white. Through the character of Tom, this filmmaker set out to portray the terrible confusion that war sows in people's minds.
The film is a curious piece, combining Cooper's narrative direction with filmed sequences dating from the war itself, taken largely from the archives at the Imperial War Museum in London. His documentary researches lasted four years between 1971 and 1975: Cooper spent nearly 3,000 hours at the Imperial War Museum: letters, registered documents, diaries – nothing escaped the director in his desire to immerse himself in the subject. To recapture the atmosphere of the period, Cooper and his director of photography John Alcott, who won an Oscar for Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, used Kodak film of German origin and camera lenses from the 1930s.
The restoration being screened at Cannes Classics was supervised by Stuart Cooper and represented by The Criterion Collection.
Monday 19th May / Buñuel Theatre/ 10:00 pm