Andrei Martyanov (SmoothieX12 on Youtube) cites the movie Come and See when he explains in the second part of a post called Economics of Military Industrial Complexes in Russia and US how the Russians conceive of war and how the US conceives of it.
A week ago, as I was watching The Professionals with growing admiration for its writer Richard Brookes, it struck me that the ultimate crystallisation of portraiture where America and Americans is concerned is the Western. The genre provides, more than the thriller, which has its roots in the policier of French cinema, a cheap-enough stage (desert being the most of what it needs) for a minimalised, ruggedly pastoral version of America’s tragedies, farces and subterfuges to find expression. Brookes has been compared to Chekhov.
There’s a gang of vets from some war or another. There’s a deal. Authority is a long way away, and in this case Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin have long since parted with authority. Woody Strode and Robert Ryan back them up. They are all into the deal for the money. Strode is black. A tracker. Ryan is a bronco buster. The logistics of keeping their horses alive is essential to the trek the deal entails. So they are a mixed bunch.
There’s a client. For the money their allegiance is to him. For the gang, violence is expeditionary – they have fought for Mexican revolutionaries – more for the adventure than for the cause of independence. And this holds true for most US military initiatives. They are not fighting for the survival of their families. Essentially they are mercenaries. And the desert backdrop could be replaced by a swamp. A swamp of deals, clients and gangs.
So in terms of genres – America might be epitomised by the Western, France by the policier, Britain by historical costume drama and Russia by the war movie.
Of these Come and See is perhaps one of the most powerful – it shows how, for the Russians, war is conceived as existential rather than expeditionary – the Russian is fighting for the actual survival of his or her family, fighting against occupation and ethnic cleansing. Patriotism is born out of necessity.
Netflix has just brought out a German view of war – All Quiet on the Western Front – after the best-selling novel by Erich Maria Remarque – and here war is seen as entrapment by patriotism.
It also shows us the sheer horror, the humiliating brutality of defeat. This too is a powerful film – and I find it interesting how a book recently published by Grey Suit Editions UK – The Cross of Carl by Walter Owen, a halucinatory evocation – arrives at an expression of the same sense of war as terrifying and grotesque.
Britain’s war films abound in tales of “derring do”, suspense and tension and spies – in the spirit of the SAS or MI6 – and of course, if nostalgically now, the navy.
and Carve her Name with Pride demonstrate these values.
And America? Well, if we want to be up-to-date, it has to be Top Gun Maverick 2022. Nuff said.
Come and See can be watched for free on Youtube.