A war film that is somewhat different from others: Solitary, poor, sordid, rough and short, war movie (2004) by Wagner Morales.
Written by Teresa Castro for an exposition at Bétonsalon - Centre d’Art et de Recherche / Paris, on December 22, 2008.
Solitary, poor, sordid, rough and short, war movie by Wagner Morales is not a war film like any other. Quite far from the pyrotechnic effects and the trembling cameras that attempt to bring to the screen the spectacle of war and war as a spectacle, Morales’ film is an intelligent and sensitive study that deals with the specificities of the cinematographic genre, while, at the same time, dealing with the complicity of the camera in organizing the war. The latter is nothing more than a great mise en scéne, which each take of Morales’ film demonstrates with remarkable simplicity and clarity. In practice, it is enough to skillfully aim the camera at the world in an effort to theatricalize or interpret a war. While it pays a clear-cut homage to Jean Luc Godard – where the film Les carabiniers (1963) plays the role of the tutorial work - War Film is, also, a confirmation of the known theories of philosopher Paul Virilio, which state that the weapon coupled with an eye and the battlefield is, above all, a field of perception. (1)
On the ninth day of the nameless war, the sky is a bright blue. Suddenly, a plane enters into the frame, trailing behind it a line of white smoke. And anguish. Other planes appear: where do they come from? Where are they going? War is this diffused fear that refuses the original and deceitful promises of transparency to the images. A plane in the sky, a man alone on a wintery beach: nothing is what it seems anymore. Morales’ film is built around these micro-occurrences, as if it were an incursion of an element over the image, or an unsuspected and sudden movement of the camera. Thanks to an effective sound track, they become the index of a presence, the disturbing signal of a look.
Because War Movie is also, above all, the story of a look and, therefore, of an eye. It is about a gun sight, seeking its target and its aim, about a howitzer-eye in the distant sight of the photographic revolver of the astrophysicist Jules Janssen, or of the howitzer-chronophotography of Étienne-Jules Marey. With the camera in ambush, framing a beach or gazing at the shadows, we no longer find ourselves in the automated and abstract world of tele-surveillance, but rather in another, the human (too human?), that of the elite sniper. Hence the importance, in Morales’ work, of the framing: this is inseverable from this incarnation – alarmingly and paradoxically poignant – from one point of view. For the man at war, writes Paul Virilio, the purpose of the weapon is the purpose of the eye. (2) (Pour l’homme de guerre, la fontion de l’arme c’est la fonction de l’œil).
Solitary, poor, sordid, rough and short, war movie by Wagner Morales is all this and a little more. Seeking his model of critique in Les Carabiniers by Godard and relying on support from the meticulous (and pleasurable) work of the sound track, the film is also a study on the views of cinema buffs and on the cinema itself. And also on the surprising capacity to continue to constantly use blocks of space-time as the surface of the imaginary projection of common men and women in cinema – which we are and which constitutes our being.
(1) Paul Virilio, Logistique de la Perception. Guerre et cinéma, Paris, Cahiers du Cinéma, 1991 .
(2) Ibid., p. 26.