Last Night's Television: Shooting the War, BBC4
Horizon, BBC2

"They have an honesty about them that is purely to do with the vision of the film-maker behind the camera," someone said of the home movies featured in Shooting the War. Her point was that this footage wasn't propaganda, though she'd conveniently forgotten that home movies are always a kind of propaganda for the person behind the camera. And that people at war quite often voluntarily sign up to be just as on-message as any Ministry of Information flak. There were disturbing sights here, which cut across the official version of the war and let you see what a government might have wanted hidden. But they were vastly outnumbered by shots that would have fed perfectly happily into the hearts-and-minds operations of either side in the Second World War. The result was a curious displacement between the voiceover rhetoric ("startling intimacy", "rare footage" etc etc) and images which, by and large, were drably indistinguishable from all the wartime actuality you've seen before, but for the fact that the focus was a bit less reliable.

Part of the reason for this was simple. Amateur cameraman who are soldiers (rather than professional cameramen attached to a military unit) tend to be too busy shooting with bullets to do it with film as well. So, if you feel that a shot of the YMCA tea van visiting a barracks in County Down was what was missing from your understanding of the greatest global conflict in recent history, you may have been disappointed. And if it wasn't, you probably felt that you had seen shots of blazing German towns and dead concentration camp victims before. Without this footage, the narration concluded, "we would never have been able to see the war with such startling intimacy". But the truth about home-movie intimacy is that it gets you close to the ordinary stuff – a Friends Ambulance man mending his bicycle in China or cheery German soldiers knocking back bottles of plonk on their way into Occupied France – and may block your view of the truly momentous.

It's a piety, really, to pretend anything else, though you might well feel that piety is the least we can offer to men who risked so much and sometimes lost everything. Paul Kellerman, a German artillery spotter who carried his movie camera into Russia as the troops advanced – recording the East European Jews his colleagues would soon murder and the arrival of the winter snows that would soon murder his colleagues – never made it back home to relish his souvenirs. Others had returned, though only after seeing things that they would never forget, such as the sight of human bodies being bulldozed into a mass grave. But the truth is that their words were often more evocative than their pictures, familiar as we are with actuality of the war. Paul Kellerman's winter scenes showed men walking in the snow on a day of bright sunshine. But it was a letter to his mother that truly made the cold bite: "When I'm using my equipment," he wrote, "my eyebrows freeze to the glass." That's startling intimacy.

The Horizon film "Pill Poppers" was a mixed prescription, with some genuinely thought-provoking ideas and some rather elementary ones (how disconnected would you have to be to still need the idea of antibiotic-resistant bacteria explaining to you?). What it did rather effectively, though, was to give you a sense of tectonic shifts in our attitude to medicine. Broadly speaking, pills used to be thought of as highly targeted interventions to end illness. Now, they're increasingly thought of as general applications to preserve or even improve wellness. Statins were one good example. There has been a proposal that everyone over 50 take these anti-cholesterol drugs, a move that would obviously benefit the companies that make them. But the rationale for such mass prescription – to ill and well alike – depends on redefining a "normal" cholesterol level as that you would find in a 25-year-old. And since statins have side effects (and since the very long-term side effects won't be clear for years yet), there might be grounds for being cautious about medical enthusiasm for the drug. Ritalin was another good case in point, a drug that has proved very useful for children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder but which, when given to people who don't have ADHD, has been shown to improve concentration and competence. The only problem being that no one knows what demons might crop up with mass use over the long term. And, just to complicate matters, a drug that might be life-saving for some patients might be fatal for others (as was the case with Seroxat, which induced suicidal thoughts in a worrying proportion of those who took it). The essential point was this. You might think that by the time you press a pill out of its blister pack and pop it on to your tongue that all the really critical tests have been completed. In fact, you're the real guinea pig.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all