Tuesday, November 15, 2011
You could throw that term in front of a lot of war movies and it would stick. Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima, Oliver Stone's Platoon, Speilberg's Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, David O Russell's Three Kings, Randall Wallace's We Were Soldiers and so on. But at what point do we define a movie as being anti anything? The reason the term sticks so well and is so uneasily refuted is that when the question is posed of what exactly could be named as an example of a pro-war movie, not too many titles instantly fit the bill.
And they rightfully shouldn't, but does that not mean that any movie that depicts the death and destruction caused by war is, in some way or another, anti-war by default? I can't think of too many movies, no matter how graphic or glorified the violence, that would stand up and openly claim themselves to being pro-war because, knowing the innate horrors or warfare, who would ever stand up and make a bold public statement in favour of it?
But let's assume, as we must, that not all war films are anti-war. At what point then does a film justifiably become anti-anything? Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting was originally criticized upon its release by some who felt it was pro-drug in it's stylized glorification and comedic outlook towards a bunch of Scottish junkies. I don't know about anyone else in the world, but seeing images of a man lose his bowels all over the bed sheets or another dive into the filthiest toilet in Scotland, no matter how humorous or stylized, should certainly be enough to turn most rational minds away from the temptations of heroin use.
Could this then simply be another one of these faux critical terms that seem to instill an importance in a film that simply inherently exists under the surface anyway based on the content? With the depiction of war itself, the realization of senseless death on a massive scale, the confusion and horror of being trapped alone in a place where each new step brings the possibility of death, are these things not the statement in and of itself without taste makers underlining and bolding it for us as well? I've heard many arguments about how Inception is a film about filmmaking, which I always dismiss as too easy a reading: of course Inception is a film about filmmaking. Every movie about dreams is, whether purposefully or not, a film about filmmaking.
That is of course not to take away from films such as Paths of Glory and Gallipoli, which are both, in similar and yet different ways, very affecting stories that rise above simple depictions of brutal combat. My point is, to come back to it again, at what point do we differentiate a war film from an anti-war film, a drug film from an anti-drug film, a violent film from an anti-violence film and so on? And how then, in all our infinite wisdom and critical capacity can we even begin to answer such a question when it is next to, if not completely impossible to separate a film's content from its message?