Diary of an Unknown Soldier is a film set in a background of WWII. It focuses on the fortunes of a simple allied soldier in a peripheral underground brigade.
Global political context is deliberately omitted, instead the story focuses on the individual experience of war. How is it possible for such an extreme and inconceivable situation to become one’s everyday reality? What undetected changes take place in the human mind then?
The film is divided into chapters, taking place in different moments in time. Each resembles a panoramic genre scene of everyday life at war. Before the spectator has a chance to comprehend the situation, another scene begins.
As chapters unfold, the hero becomes increasingly lost. Adventure means hunger, lice and severe exhaustion. People he gets attached to die and new people flow in their place. Enemies become allies, allies become enemies. Moral values decay and with them the character’s identity. Decline of the old order means a completely new freedom – an unknown land.
The purpose of such structure is to move the spectator's focus from understanding and rational judgement to direct experience. The effect is further highlighted by performance of unprofessional actors, who display different personality types that we recognise from our own lives.
Diary of an Unknown Soldier aims for the audience who has an interest in experimental ciemna and searches for a language in which one could take up a dialogue about the rapidly transforming reality of today. At the same time the film can be alluring to a broader audience thanks to elements of shock and aestheticization of violence.
The film has a pacifist message, as it shows an absurd cruelty of war. On the other hand it allows for the character’s dignity and gives a meaning to his unique and important experience.