Tag Archives: war

Mi Mejor Enimigo (2005)

“What’s this? War or a boy scout camp?”

Set during the 70s during border tensions between Chile and Argentina, Sgt Ferrer (Erto Panjojo) takes five conscripts out on patrol near the border. Ferrer is ordered to discover the barb wire boundary from the 1904 borders and then ‘defend the islands.’  The men are each given twenty bullets and told to kill 5 Argentineans. Since this is hardly a well-funded project, they have one compass to guide the way.

Given the set-up, the absurdities come fast and furious–with the underlying message that the men are entirely expendable in this insane mission. One of the conscripts, the plump, sweet but clueless Almonacid (Andres Olea) has the job of picking up a pebble every 1000 steps to mark their progress and approximate distance.  As the terrain changes, the Chileans found themselves on the flat pampas covered plains with nowhere to hide, and they can’t tell where Chile ends and Argentina begins. It doesn’t take long before disaster strikes and the men find themselves locked into a version of trench warfare with their enemies –The Argentineans .

mi mejor enimigoMi Mejor Enimigo from director Alex Bowen, starts off very strongly before sliding into a few predictable cliches. Some of the characters are well developed while others are virtually ignored. But in spite of these faults,  the film manages to redeem itself with its clear, subtle final scenes that underscore the idea that war is a pointless exercise in stupidity. Are the Chileans at the mercy of the Argentineans or their own officers? There’s one scene with the Chilean soldiers chatting when it suddenly occurs to them that they are all from Northern Chile. One of the men realizes that their origins dictate their assignment as it’s a well-known fact that many southern Chiles don’t see Argentina as a blood enemy. There’s an uncomfortable moment of silence and then the conversation moves on. The film’s gorgeous cinematography and stunning use of wide open skies, spectacular sunsets and vast open plains helps the sometimes weak plot in the message that borders are hard to clarify and sometimes impossible to maintain….

A great deal of the story focuses on private Rodrigo Rojas (Nicolas Saavedra) a young man who carries a photo of a waitress (Fernanda Urrejola) inside his helmet. He swears that if he survives this girl will be his, and this statement parallels the idea that some men get medals and some men don’t.

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Filed under (Anti) War, Argentinean

Circle of Deceit (1981)

  “Never stand still in Beirut.”

German journalist Georg Laschen (Bruno Ganz) leaves behind his troubled marriage for Beirut, Lebanon to cover the outbreak of civil war in 1975. He arrives in a hotel full of other foreign journalists who’ve become used to the odd mortar hitting the building. The hotel is located in “No Man’s Land”–a zone in between Christian and Muslim fighting factions. Laschen is calmly told that most of the fighting takes place at night, but that during the days, it’s fairly quiet. Shortly after Laschen’s arrival, the country explodes into civil war.

circleAs the danger intensifies, Laschen and his photographer, Hoffman (Jerzy Skolimowski) take to the streets and pass through the zones of various fighting factions. At each checkpoint, chaos reigns–people are summarily rounded up and executed, and the bodies of the victims burned to hide the carnage. Laschen and Hoffman pass unscathed through scenes of death and destruction, while those a few feet away are coldly murdered. Both men feel the elation of a facade of invulnerability, and they begin to take more risks. The film assumes a surreal element as fighters on all sides vacillate between wanting photos taken of their deeds and not wanting any evidence left behind. As insanity reigns in Beirut, entrepreneurs sell weapons to the highest bidders and rival papers bid on grisly photos.

Meanwhile, war is good business for the journalists fortunate enough to be on the spot. A party atmosphere reigns at the hotel, and as Hoffman notes to Laschen “we both feed our families from this kind of event.” Laschen begins his assignment with the agenda of recording whatever he sees, but he finds it increasingly difficult to remain emotionally apart from the atrocities taking place around him. He seeks out Ariana (Hanna Schygulla) a fellow German who has chosen to remain in Beirut

Directed by Volker Schlondorff, Circle of Deceit captures the beginning of an important piece of history–the Lebanese Civil War–while exploring the inhumanity of war–and those who provide coverage for the rest of the world. The voyeuristic element of the journalist’s job becomes a moral question for Laschen as he witnesses the carnage of Beirut. Circle of Deceit is in German, French and English with English subtitles.

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Filed under German, Hanna Schygulla, Political/social films, Volker Schlondorff