The Battle of Algiers
The Battle of Algiers
1966. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Banned for five years in France, The Battle of Algiers was a political megabomb upon it's release and remains one of the most important films ever made to this day.
The subject matter of the film focuses on the Algerian War during the years of 1954-1957. More specifically, The Battle of Algiers is a step by step guide on guerrilla, insurgent warfare, thus garnering it critical acclaim alongside more dubious honors.
Shot in black white, the entire film is presented like a living documentary. Marcello Gatti's cinematography is rip the band-aid off intense. Every explosion, every child, every gun, and every soldier almost comes off of the screen into reality, a side effect of the film's determined, yet dangerous invasion of your conscious. This is a film that refuses to take a side and forces the viewer to examine both angles of the conflict fairly, something that would be virtually impossible in the current climate of world affairs. But it is for this reason that The Battle of Algiers is so important.
It's depictions show war as a matter of fact way of life. It dissects exactly how an invading force loses a war and how an insurgent force somehow manages to continue to gain recruits, even as their numbers are continually thinned by superior armaments. These themes are seen through countless other films, such as Red Dawn, or the forthcoming Rogue One, perhaps hinting that mankind has an obsession with rebellion. Even if this is true, The Battle of Algiers does not present the insurgents as heroes, thus supporting it's framework of neutrality.
The obvious comparison is to Melville's classic Army of Shadows. The difference between the two lies in presentation. Melville is centered on the karmic cost, while this film is concerned with physical stakes. While both films are landmarks, The Battle of Algiers is without comparison. A magnum opus on the cost of war and the social implications of a people who are unwilling to submit.
The Battle of Algiers is a blueprint examination of how revolutions transpire. It's not supporting terrorism or condoning it, but it is very honest in it's approach. One of the darker aspects of the film is how it disconnects from the subject matter, as if to say that War is a natural derivative of the human experience, something that is inevitable.
This concept is driven home by the film's ending on a tragic note that is ultimately not a predictor of the way things truly ended, thus saying that no matter the victor, all sides in an armed conflict experience bereavement and violence.
Available now on Huluplus, The Battle of Algiers is quintessential material for film fans to devour. Even with avoiding the easy social media entanglements, this is a film that demands viewing and you'll be thinking about it's implications long after it's concluded.