This is a movie that is all that and transcends them. This is almost a black comedy about the absurdities of war. It brings out about a surreal unreality to the whole situation and forces you to almost laugh out nervously at what unfolds on the screen. And the most successful aspect that the movie brings out is the brutal farce that war is, the harsh artificiality and casualness that it brings out in people who are ‘observers’ or ‘reporters’ and it does all this without ever becoming preachy. The war becomes a ‘thing’ to be discussed and analysed for people other than who are directly affected by it. Thats what hits you most by the time the movie ends. Its tragic ending seems almost diabolic in its black humour.
Nino and Ciki are ‘enemies’ in that Nino is Serbian and Ciki is Bosnian. They might have been neighbours in peacetime, the usual irony of war and the fact is brought about almost subtly. They are caught in a no-man’s land between their two sides. Along with them is Cera, Ciki’s comrade who is injured and due to unfortunate circumstances placed on a mine that would explode if he gets up. And the whole drama is played out from there.
What is most refreshing about the movie is that there is no melodrama, no ‘heroism’ and no extended reflective dialogues on the evils of war or anything abstract. The three men are played as the absolutely normal people they are, who are just caught up in the circumstances to play their roles. They are not political and each is thinking that the other is to blame for the war when each is fighting for survival at the end. The incredible distances that people can drift apart and become enemies out of mere fear for each other in the abstract is shown implicitly. That this is one of the biggest tragedy in war is what dawns upon you when you are through the movie.
The role of the venerable UN and its deliberate impotence in the face of a humanitarian crisis is also shown with refreshing candour. The difference in the human consciousness between Marchand and his superior officers (who consider the whole situation as a mere irritant) will be familiar to anyone who has dealt with military bureaucracy. The peacekeepers are shown to be distant and almost callous and escapist with the exception of Marchand.
The role of the media and its inherent hypocricy is also shown well, exemplified by the anguished cry of Ciki at the end – “And you vultures film it? You get good money? Does our misery pay well?” and afterwards, when the woman reporter asks the cameraman – “did you get it?” – which just about sums it up. People become mere sound-bytes and fleeting images.
This movie leaves you shaken not with anything special except the depiction of the mere almost everyday atmosphere and its depiction of an impossible, unnecessary, useless tragedy that only war can bring about. And this movie leaves you thinking for long afterwards. While not being a ‘heavy’ movie, this brings out every facet of human nature and the senselessness of war – civil or otherwise.
This movie has won numerous awards and the reason is not far to see. Lagaan simply was too pedestrian to even try and give a fight to this one..