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“War without a Name”, Tavernier’s documentary to learn more about Algeria

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nameless war, Bertrand Tavernier and Patrick Rotman’s film about the trauma of the Algerian war turns 30. The very same years that separate this powerful documentary from the events it tells. By that date, silence had replaced memory. Tavernier and Rotman set up a camera and microphone in front of a group of veterans, men who had fought in their youth in a war the French state had for years dubbed “operations in North Africa,” in rhetoric reminiscent of contemporary Russia remembered in Ukraine. Between 1954 and 1962, about three million French people, mostly boys from poor families, were conscripted to end up in a dead end of history.

This tear is the great protagonist of a film that proves the inestimable value of cinema in the face of historical redemption. An anti-war monument of the first order because its direct witnesses reveal that the war, with its adventures, its missions, its camaraderie and its uniforms, comes out only feet first or with irreparable consequences. According to veteran historian Benjamin Stora’s report presented to Emmanuel Macron in January 2021, there were around half a million dead. After 130 years of French rule, the Algerian war left wounds that are still open.

At the end of a shocking sequence, Patrick Rotman asks the former head of a French commando, who confesses to him a horrific episode of torture that he says prevented the deaths of 150 French soldiers, if humiliating another man isn’t humiliating. Sentence that falls off like a record, making him hesitate until the respondent replies, “It is, but it’s the politicians who make wars. If you don’t want atrocities, don’t make wars.” Rotman does not add any further questions. It’s not the only testimony that justifies torture with the same argument. But of course, as Albert Camus, a French Algerian, said, justifying torture means the loss of all values ​​and “war, without aim or law, consecrates the triumph of nihilism”.

More than four hours long and chronological Rotman interviews and Tavernier films. The testimonies are only broken when a narrator’s voice (Tavernier’s own) contextualizes the stories. He cites John Huston (“As in his films, fate cares not about the protagonist’s intentions”) when speaking of the recruits who went by force to a “harsh, violent, and exhausting” war. The film proposes not to judge and achieves this by giving a voice to the last link in the usual chain. There is no place here for high officials, politicians or historians. The only testimonies that count are those from those who were at the front.

The film acts like a painful generational map, into which everything fits, the convinced and the rebellious, who tried, at best, to get rid of countless hours of lost life for a cause that was not theirs. Men who would not get used to washing themselves with the water that fits in a helmet had to live a life of constant alert. Doomed to kill or be killed. 30 years later, the lump in these soldiers’ throats still hadn’t gone away. Like that of an elderly, bald man who collapses as he recalls an Algerian soldier being shot dead and two others tortured before his eyes.

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In the documentary “War Without a Name” several soldiers pose for the camera.

This oral condition of the film, the way the story is organized in this polyphony of voices, is reminiscent of the strategy used by Claude Lanzmann in Shoah, which had been published five years earlier and whose process was infinitely longer and more tortuous given the magnitude of what was at stake: the indescribable Holocaust. But the formal revolution that Shoaha film that has broadened the horizons of contemporary cinema and the representation of collective memory appears in this film by Tavernier and Rotman, accompanying the interviewee during his testimony, forming a corner of the shot or creating spaces in the present, around to listen to the past.

Nameless War it falls short of Lanzmann’s strict doctrine because it uses archival elements, photographs taken by the interviewees themselves, sometimes accompanied by songs chosen with Tavernier’s sensitive ear. But the present reigns in a film that resolves the problems of depicting the horrors of war with “the currents they follow.” shoah‘ to quote the Spanish critic Jaime Pena in his extraordinary recent essay Cinema after Auschwitz.

Nameless War It is a fundamental film in the relationship between cinema and memory. A fascinating exploration and demonstration of how documentary pushes the boundaries of journalism in its quest for truth. When it premiered at the Berlinale in February 1992, French society was still taboo and silent. His contribution was crucial in untying this knot and calling the Algerian war by its name.

Nameless War

Address: Bertrand Tavernier

Script: Bertrand Tavernier and Patrick Rotmann.

Gender: Documentation. France, 1992.

Platform: filmin.

Duration: 240 minutes.

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Source elpais.com

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