Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 10:54 am 
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Post-battle trauma with a female POV

In this film, which will interest students of women at war and post battle psychological issues, we follow Marine (Soko) and Aurore (Ariane Labed), two young women soldiers, of only three females in a combat unit, as they participate in a three-day psych evaluation/debriefing session on Cyprus en route home from Afghan duty. The process is a strange combination of old-fashioned drunken R&R, complete with sex with locals (for Aurore) and a lot of sunshine, on the one hand, and, on the other, solemn virtual reality sessions where some individuals go before the while unit and talk about traumatic moments of their Afghan service. It was only a short time, but there have been deaths and their are recriminations and hostilities that go deep. So is the sexism and the men's desire to beat up on somebody, whether each other, the women, or the locals. It doesn't look like anybody is going to make a wonderful readjustment to non-combat life.

Voir du pays won a screenplay award at Un Certain Regard at Cannes, and it deserves credit for looking closely at women in the military. The trouble is that the filmmaking sisters, who previously dealt with a rash of teenage pregnancy at a provincial French lyçée, seem by the nature of their choice a bit out of their depth here both with the subject matter and the technical demands of dealing with warfare. Focusing on a debriefing session is an easy way of bypassing combat scenes. But can you imagine a movie or a novel that talks about PTSD without actually showing action in country? Good use is made of the Cyprus locations and Cypriote actors, especially Chrystos, a local interested in the girls (Andreas Konstantinou). The fault is never with the actors, and there are some young men who make an impression to match the strong thespian efforts of Soko (also seen in the Rendez-Vous film The Dancer, which highlights her talents more fully) and her female cohorts.

Aurore and Marine, friends from childhood with limited futures, joined the army as a career opportunity and as the French title ironically declares, to "see the world." It didn't turn out that way. When a local asks them how Afghanistan was, they say they didn't see it: they went straight to the base. Through the course of the film it comes to seem the future Aurore and Marine have ahead of them has shrunken, not grown. And they have become disillusioned with both the military and with me. The film also shows hostilities among the men, and the ability of some unit members to gang up on the others, particularly one who is scapegoated for publicly questioning a command decision to withdraw that the officers claim as a victory. He thinks the unit losses could have been prevented. Another soldier, the first to speak at the debriefings, is tormented by subtle guilt for the death of a comrade. He thinks it is his fault, because he let his pal take a seat in a vehicle that was usually his. Now the arm on that side has no feeling.

Voir du pays/Stopover, 102 mins., debuted at Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2016, winning the Screenplay Award and nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award. Nominated for the Golden Pyramid at Cairo. showing in a half dozen other festivals including Angoulême, Jerusalem, London, Thessaloniki, Cairo and Palm Springs. Watched for this review as an online screener for the Unifrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center 2017 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (1-12 Mar. 2017). Public screenings:
Thursday, March 9, 9:00pm
Friday, March 10, 4:15pm

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