What is the significance of Schofield getting his hand cut on the barbed wire in the movie 1917?

That hand pops up many times.

  1. First the hand gets cut on wire.
  2. The hand gets shoved into a decaying body
  3. He visually grabs a rifle with his cut hand, subtle scene but front center.
  4. He then wraps it.
  5. At the last scene there is a handshake where the wrapped hand is still quite visible.

I don't think these scenes were done out of coincidence. What did the story teller intend with the wounded hand?

  • 2
    I don't think there is one. 1 is just script, so is 2. In 3 you are overthinking and 4 is obvious. Again in 5 you are overthinking. Unless there is any answer by screenwriter or director this is mere extrapolation.
    – Rahul
    Jun 5, 2021 at 12:58

1 Answer 1


While not directly answering your question, Sam Mendes mentions in an interview with CTV that when filming the shots surrounding the hand being cut in the barbed wire, he wanted to viewer to be immersed as possible in the experiences of the characters.

This can be interpreted to mean in this context, that Schofield crossing into no man's land was a very real and dangerous act and so his hand being cut is symbolic of the danger of the quest and the border he had just crossed.

It further adds a lens of authenticity as these characters we are watching experience realistic consequences that any of us would experience if we were in their shoes. It is muddy, it is dirty, people do get hurt.

  • 2
    I would go further than symbolism: his cut hand, still fresh and bleeding being immersed in a a cadaverous murk of filth is probably the single most dangerous thing depicted in the film. Bear in mind that, in reality, a lot of the mud around the trenches was actually latrine cast-offs. Of the top 20 medical/casualty reasons listed for WW1, sorted by percentage, only 3 are not disease related: shrapnel and gunshot are only 6 and 7.
    – Yorik
    Jul 1, 2021 at 19:49

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