I Saw A Film!
If you didn’t know that Stanly Kubrick directed this little hour long drama you certainly wouldn’t ponder it much past the closing credits. Because it’s a war drama, and because it delves into the psychological pressures of warfare and brutality we’re kind of beholden to draw some depth from our conclusions.
Having been a bit of a buff on soldier fiction, from Company K to Catch-22 I think I have a general “feel” for the purpose of this drama, it’s possibly closer to The Naked and the Dead in terms of what war does to our expectations from the varied pool of human despair. In other words, don’t be expecting Rat Patrol.
The story, not unfamiliar to us, is about a group of soldiers downed behind enemy lines in some fictional war (though, frankly, not unlike the one that had just been fought). We have a velvet voiced lieutenant, a classic gruff sergeant, and a couple of grunts, one a clear kiddo who seems to be unraveling with each step and finally comes undone when the small band of soldiers take out a couple of the enemy while they are quietly eating some stew. Our intrepid soldiers (only ours because they are the featured characters, we have no idea of ideology or nationality or whatever they are fighting for, and that’s by choice I’m sure) stuff themselves on the stew and take the weapons. The vile death of the soldiers, of course, just like every story about close-up murder tells (think All Quiet On the Western Front) is a damaging and unnatural action made “necessary” by the nation states that employ us.
William March in Company K makes the case that anyone fighting on the front lines of war should be shot on returning from war. In his opinion they should be put out of their traumatic misery. This is, of course, a hyperbole meant to disturb us and move us away from warfare and was written after the first world war. We haven’t really learned any lessons about it.
The story of Fear and Desire gets stranger as we go. A beautiful young woman, looking like a water nymph, discovers them and is captured and held at gunpoint by the young unraveling soldier while the rest of the crew checks on an escape raft they have been constructing to float down what seems to be a Mobius strip of a river. Our brave Sgt decides to take on the enemy general’s staff he spotted through binoculars–he wants to use the accident of their situation to the best advantage for conflict.
All in all the circumstances are dirty, pointless, and confusing, and the results are just as much pointless garbage. This film is running Free on Prime and Paul Mazursky plays the young soldier, fun to see him so young after his parts on Curb Your Enthusiasm. The stunning girl they capture would later be Jan in the pan in the Brain That Wouldn’t Die!