Theatre of War review – raw wounds and redemption in Falklands docu-fiction

This genre-muddling film is both documentary, featuring ex-soldiers who fought in the 1982 conflict, and arthouse drama

The end credits of Theatre of War state that the film was “part of a larger project composed of a video installation [called Veterans], a theatre play [Minefield] and a book [Campo Minando/Minefield]” – the last a bilingual edition of the play itself. Those multimedia roots are palpable on screen in this peculiar, genre-muddling work, which is in one way a documentary featuring former soldiers from both Argentina and the UK who fought in the 1982 conflict in the Falklands Islands. In another way, this is a highly artificial, self-consciously theatrical arthouse drama featuring mostly non-professionals playing versions of themselves and each other. One of the soldiers featured is actually an actor now, although oddly enough he is given much less on-screen time than some of the other participants.

Together, the men describe their experiences in combat straight to camera in a studio, or in a room with peeling paint or, in one disturbing sequence, using toy soldiers and bits of cloth to act out horrific casualties, like some macabre amateur YouTube cartoon. A disembodied arm holds up a dismembered toy soldier’s green plastic leg, and notes that he knew he’d found his comrade Vargas’s leg because “he always wore football socks with coloured stripes”. Elsewhere, recollections of suicide attempts, profound feelings of shame, and other PTSD-shaped reactions are recounted, at one point via an ad hoc, multinational garage band.

The obvious touchstone for this kind of self-reflective meta-docu-fiction cinema would be Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, which persuaded former death-squad leaders from Indonesia to recreate their own crimes for the camera. Director Lola Arias’s work is less startlingly original, more redemptive and psychodrama-inclined. It hints at the possibility of reconciliation even if these men were once enemies on the field, but without making the whole thing some mushy exercise in staged truth and reconciliation. The wounds still feel raw, even if they’re by now well aired.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Film about Falklands veteran Simon Weston in the making
Film will be directed by Railway Man’s Jonathan Teplitzky and will use material from Weston’s three autobiographies

Andrew Pulver

28, Sep, 2016 @1:38 PM

Article image
A Cop Movie review – arresting Mexican docu-drama twists police film tropes
Alonso Ruizpalacios’ film starts off as an addictive cop show, breaks the fourth wall and then rebuilds it in a film bristling with ideas

Peter Bradshaw

27, Oct, 2021 @9:00 AM

Article image
Capital in the Twenty-First Century review – lavish look at a broken system
Bling montages and shrewd commentary mark this adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s grim bestseller about inequality and excess

Peter Bradshaw

24, Sep, 2020 @12:00 PM

Article image
​One or Two Questions review – gripping doc gets to heart of Uruguay
Kristina Konrad’s four-hour epic is an unsettling but vital exploration of the effectiveness of referendums – and what peace means in a democracy

Phil Hoad

18, Jul, 2018 @12:00 PM

Article image
I Am Samuel: the film aiming to ‘change the narrative’ on being gay in Kenya
The young star of Peter Murimi’s intimate documentary is as poor, religious and conservative as his peers – and fearful of a violent backlash, he says

Jason Okundaye

28, May, 2021 @7:00 AM

Falklands focus for Thatcher - The Movie
After the success of The Queen, it was probably inevitable. Thatcher - The Movie is under way. By Duncan Campbell.

Duncan Campbell

20, Mar, 2007 @8:26 AM

Casting latest: Falklands outing for Guy?

Plus: Newman to play ageing Caped Crusader

02, Oct, 2000 @1:39 PM

The Falklands test
What do those born in 1982 know about the conflict? Did it affect their lives? Natalie Alcoba asks five Britons, an islander and an Argentinian.

25, Feb, 2002 @12:41 PM

Article image
The Edge of Democracy review – to the heart of Brazilian politics
Petra Costa’s powerful documentary charts the state’s descent into populism and the fraying of its democratic fabric

Leslie Felperin

21, Jun, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Buena Vista Social Club: Adios review – thoughtful final look at the Cuban music phenomenon
Lucy Walker’s documentary usefully fills in gaps left by the wildly successful 1999 Wim Wenders film about the band and its few ageing survivors

Leslie Felperin

20, Oct, 2017 @8:00 AM