OF MEN AND WAR Opens Friday (November 6) at the Carlton. 142 minutes. Rating: NNNN
The second film in a planned Genealogy Of Wrath trilogy – the first one was 2003’s War-Wearied – Laurent Bécue-Renard’s Of Men And War embeds itself at a California centre where a handful of American servicemen are being treated for severe PTSD after tours of duty in Iraq.
Bécue-Renard is a patient and sensitive filmmaker, and he’s clearly won his subjects’ trust: he brings his camera to group sessions, and in long, calm close-ups, tension and panic start to bubble up in their faces.
There is no battle footage or graphic imagery, but it’s excruciating to watch – a series of devastating, nakedly human moments showing the cost of war on the men sent to fight it.
A veteran’s girlfriend tells him she’s afraid he’ll fall back into the bottle as a way of coping with the stress of “normal” life, and he admits he snuck a drink earlier just so he could have this conversation. Another vet paces in inarticulate frustration as a counsellor tries to tell him it’s okay to be frustrated.
Everyone’s angry, and it won’t stop. Watching this won’t change their circumstances, but it might help you understand how they feel.