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Armadillo a Stunning Portrait of War

Armadillo is a stunningly intimate and haunting portrait of war. Armadillo is a stunningly intimate and haunting portrait of war.

Danish filmmaker Janus Metz’s stunning war documentary Armadillo provides insights into the nature of the war in Afghanistan and the lives of the people involved in it. The film is an aesthetic triumph, featuring both excellent cinematography by Lars Skree and powerful editing by Per Kirkegaard.

The story as a platoon of Danish soldiers a preparing to leave for a six month stint in Afghanistan. The camera follows some of the men in their homes, at their farewell party, and as they say goodbye to their families at the airport.

From the outset, the film is captivating. The colors are muted, the focus is close, and the juxtaposition of the soldiers wrestling with each other at the base and cavorting with strippers at their send off compared to spending tender moments with their families is striking.

The soldiers arrive at a camp in Afghanistan called Armadillo, where they are stationed less than a kilometer from where members of the Taliban have embedded themselves in a local town.

The cast of characters runs the gamut from the sincere platoon leader, to the gung-ho soldier on the frontlines, to the slightly timid recruit. The movie introduces viewers to each of its principals and then tracks them through a six-month tour in a harrowing war zone, providing an amazing character arc for each.

In fact, the narrative unfolds almost like a Hollywood work of fiction - so much so that, sometimes, it’s hard to remember that the scenes on the screen are non-fiction.

Metz also doesn’t shy away from the wounded or the dead, giving a disturbingly intimate glimpse into the frontlines of war.

Of note as well are the interactions of the Danish soldiers with Afghanistan citizens. The soldiers are constantly on edge, unsure of who they can trust. The citizens are fatigued and traumatized by a war unfolding in their village that ultimately doesn’t have much to do with them. When the fighting ends, the Taliban and the Danes will both move on, but the villagers, the ones who survive, will stay.

Armadillo is at once haunting, gripping, and thought-provoking. The intimacy of the action is challenging and illuminating, while the closeness to the subjects of the documentary shows a human story unfolding under extreme duress. Janus Metz has accomplished something extraordinary, and conveys powerfully the anxiety, boredom, exhilaration, and ultimate sense of meaningless inherent in any high stakes military operation. The unbelievable footage captured by Lars Skree makes the film still more compelling. Meanwhile, the power of Per Kirkegaard’s editing cannot be understated, as his work sets much of the tone throughout this must-see film.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 26 October 2010 19:36

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