ARMADILLO (Janus Metz Pedersen, 2010)

Armadillo, from Denmark, has won best documentary film prizes (the Bodil Award, and at the Robert and RiverRun festivals) and the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes. The filmmaker is Janus Metz, a.k.a. Janus Metz Pedersen, who along with his cinematographer and cameraman, Lars Skree, followed a group of young Danish recruits during their six-month tour of duty in southern Afghanistan. The NATO-attached troop experienced intense boredom that was interrupted by confrontations with the Taliban, who were positioned less than a mile away. The film begins with their departure from home and ends with their return home, to which an updating coda is appended that grimly suggests the addictive nature of war.
     This is a slight piece of work, not a serious or substantial one, that compares poorly, say, with Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s Restrepo, released the same year. To be sure, Armadillo—the name of the army base— adequately conveys what it is like to be in the situation that the film describes; but the design of Metz’s editing, which Per K. Kirkegaard obediently executed, is repellent to me. Its aim is to “make” the material “dramatic” so that we feel a rush of armchair adrenalin whenever the “action” borders on becoming, or becomes, combustible and lethal. Perhaps the rationale for this strategy of fictionalizing the reality of war is to exert on the film’s audience something of the addictive nature of war to which the film’s coda, as I earlier remarked, refers. Regardless, Metz should have dispensed with this cheap, sensationalizing tack, with which the voluminous yards of lovely color cinematography, which on occasion veers close to, and into, black and white, glibly and sleazily comports. Incorrigible Metz has made a warmongering film to which he has handily attached an antiwar message. The procedure is sickening, and those who fall for this artistic shit run the risk of losing their souls, if they still have souls.

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