Dir: Janus Metz
I had the opportunity to see Armadillo at this years Melbourne International Film Festival, and it was easily one of the best I saw. Upon re-watching it my feelings haven’t changed at all, the film is fantastic. It really is unlike any other war film I have seen, documentary or otherwise. Its aim is to give the audience a fly on the wall view of what it is like to be a solider in this day and age, and what this area of Afghanistan is like for these men. It achieves this goal successfully, it doesn’t have a political agenda, and it doesn’t aim to take sides.
Director Janus Metz accompanied a group of Danish soldiers to Afghanistan and stayed with them for six months. I am sure he collected a lot of footage, but with editor Per K. Kirkegaard they have made a very interesting 100 minutes of film. It isn’t a biased opinion, it isn’t there to try and get people to sign up to go to war, or for people to run out and protest. It shows what their lives are like there, how often they face dangers and how they feel about it.
The film as I imagine was not an easy one to make, and the fact that the cameras are there filming all sorts of events is extraordinary to think about. Being right there when things happen, and to see the reactions of the soldiers is quite something to witness. Seeing a blast go off, and a soldier being injured and those injuries being taken care of on the spot until they can get some real medical attention is rather eye opening. While watching this, I actually felt as though I was there, experiencing these events along with everyone else. It feels so very real, and shocking, that at times I just couldn’t believe this was actually real. Where the men were based in Armadillo, sees them get more action than other places. In turn the soldiers are always expecting to see action, and when there isn’t much to do they try to find things to fight the boredom away (including watching porno films). It really shows what these men get used to, and how debilitating the boredom must be.
With this film, I think we really get a taste of all the elements that the soldiers experienced during their time there. From the moment they leave and saying good-bye to loves ones, to arriving at Armadillo and getting briefed, to seeing action, getting injured, returning from injury, having nothing to do, trying to find some time to feel normal, seeing action again, hearing about another group getting four casualties, and then returning home and for some deciding to either leave the military or do another tour. The film does give some in-sight as to why some decided to return and others not, each person is different and feels different things, we understand that and it made for compelling viewing. Unlike other documentaries, it doesn’t have sit downs with the men it films, they do not talk to the camera about their experiences, instead we are left to have those experiences with them. I found that to be something unexpected, however with the way this was put together it really worked.
Armadillo I think will remain as one of the most honest and frank looks at the war, letting us inside this experience with those men. I would be interested to hear how soldiers who have been there, see this film and whether it did a good enough job to show us what it is like. It certainly opened up my eyes to a lot of different things, and it is important to really show all sides to war (as it is with situations). This is a film that should be seen, it is a valuable one in terms of what it says and how it is presented. It is complex in its relationships, but simple enough to follow and experience. As much as I want to recommend this, it is not an easy film to get through. War is not something that should be easy to deal with, and this film really gets that message across. You really should brave it, as it is an engaging piece of non-fictional cinema.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is presented with Anamorphic Widescreen 1:85:1. The picture quality looks surprisingly good on DVD, the film itself suffers from a lot of grain and such but the DVD transfer looks fantastic, I was impressed. Audio is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1. Sound, language is Danish with English subtitles, the sound is amazing and this really makes the film so compelling to watch. It came through so well, and it really places you right in those situations.
* Additional Scenes:
- – Prior to Departure
- – First Days In Afghanistan
- – Afghan National Army
- – Civilian Afghans
- – The Death Of A Little Girl
- – At The End Of The Road
The additional scenes are a great addition, I was so glad to see them included here. They are long and give such fantastic in-sights, I actually would love to see them included in the feature. They really add so much and it is a shame they were deleted. Each of the scene’s are moving and emotional and are a must-see after the film.
* Director Comments: This feature is a great little companion piece, interesting to hear the director’s words and actually see that I really understood his vision and intentions. Again another must-see, it is a shame we didn’t get a full commentary but what is included is very much worth while.
* Theatrical Trailer
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.