Friday, March 12, 2010

Movie with Abe: Severe Clear

Severe Clear
Directed by Kristian Farga
Released March 12, 2010

This year’s Best Picture winner “The Hurt Locker” isn’t the only Iraq war movie opening in (or expanding to) a number of theatres today. There’s also the movie that has been termed the “real Hurt Locker.” That film is the documentary “Severe Clear,” an extremely revealing snapshot of the Iraq war in a specific time period. First Lieutenant Mike Scotti used his camera as a diary and video journal in preparation for the book he was planning to write, and the film preserves his breakdown of titled chapters and his segmented narrative of the beginning of the war on terror.

What sets “Severe Clear” apart from other films about the current conflict in Iraq is not only that it’s Scotti’s story, but that it was also shot by him. He wasn’t an embedded reporter and never intended for it to be a motion picture. The finished product paints a picture of a certain time period without the need to update it with any new information, a sort of time capsule. The key to success, according to director Kristian Fraga, is to keep the film to the time period during which the footage was filmed. Fraga explains that “we see how we went in and how things begin to unravel. When [Scotti] is back, that’s a whole other movie. The Mike Scotti of 2005 and 2006 is irrelevant.” Scotti emphasizes that this kind of project wouldn’t be possible today since such an unsupervised and free ability to shoot wouldn’t be permitted in the military.

The film’s relevancy today, however, isn’t lost in any way. Scotti explains that seeing the film creates a shared experience, especially for the families and loved ones who have served in the war. There’s a scene in the film where soldiers talk about how it’s hard for movies to represent what actually happens in war. Personally, Scotti says he “couldn’t think of a better type of therapy than getting everything down on paper.” Discussing the success of “The Hurt Locker,” Scotti notes that he saw the film because other marines saw it and recommended it to him. He isn’t concerned with alleged factual discrepancies, and points out that no one cares about the historical inaccuracy of an epic film like “Lawrence of Arabia.” He speaks particularly passionately about the lengthy desert scene that comes midway through “The Hurt Locker,” noting that he was nervous and sweating, and that the “awesome” scene affected him emotionally and physically. Fraga and Scotti speak highly of the film as a positive example of a war film.

For both Fraga and Scotti, one of the most satisfying reactions to their own film is that affirmation that they too got it right. Scotti’s immense efforts to film as much as he could in the midst of everything help to ensure a sense of reality without any sort of filter. Soldiers share their feelings and vent without attempting to smile and look good in front of the camera. It doesn’t take any political stance, even though both director and star are well aware that people will bring their politics to the film. It’s an incredibly real film that is at times surprisingly amusing and at others extremely unsettling. The story isn’t sugar-coated or glorified in any way, and its honesty is what makes it a crucial film not for those who seek concrete answers for why the country entered the war but rather a better understanding of what it’s like to be in the throes of war.


No comments: