Keswick Film Club - Reviews - A War

Reviews - A War

A War

Reviewed By Chris Coombes

A War
A War
Last Sunday at the Keswick Film Club we were treated to "A War", a deeply affecting Danish anti-war film written and directed by Tobias Lindholm and starring the excellent Pilou Asbaek as Claus, a respected commander of a unit of Danish soldiers patrolling an area of Afghanistan.

Following the death of one of his men Claus appears to become over-concerned for the welfare of his unit and insists on going out on patrol with them when he should maybe have stayed at the base to make strategic decisions that would direct the unit's operations. He is further affected by the plight of a local family that he is powerless to help and who are killed by the Taliban. Meanwhile, in Denmark his wife Maria is struggling to look after their 3 children, one of whom in particular is suffering because of his father's absence.

When his men come under attack Claus makes a split-second decision that ultimately saves his troops, but which leads to the death of 11 civilians. He is sent home and charged. Claus is an honourable man. He talks to his wife about what he did and seems prepared to face a prison sentence as punishment. Maria, his wife is clear that he must avoid a prison sentence because she and the children need him. He faces a huge dilemma. As it happens one of his men is prepared to lie about the circumstances of the attack and Claus is acquitted, although we are left in no doubt that he will not escape the guilt he feels about what he did.

The acting is wonderful, and the hand-held camera give a sense of realism to the action scenes. The tension is palpable as we watch the soldiers out on patrol with, it seems, every step, every breath counted, recorded and watched – in spite of which catastrophic things happen and truth is sacrificed. No amount of technology, good intention or strict rules of engagement can civilise or ennoble war. We see once again that there are no winners in a war situation. Everyone is helpless. A War is a film well worth watching.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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