The Battle of Algiers
Frankly, my dear readers I don’t give a damn about politics and I don’t naturally go to the films that matter about this subject. It was more a mandatory exercise than an actual act of lovemaking towards this renowned film. Even if it was crafted during the great years of the French New Wave and that it influenced Steven Soderbergh on his Che, I had to try three times to actually watch the entire thing. Enough about me and let's discuss the film now.
The chronicle that is the reconstitution of the events that leaded to the independence of Algeria is a solid example of a scientifically and historically documented work of fiction. Almost shot like a documentary and loaning the narratives of the genre, The Battle of Algiers witnesses the revolution of a country that had enough for over 130 years of French wardship. The objective point of view of the narration delivers a strong untainted message that this was a war, or should I say a guerrilla, that marked the world of the 1960’s in its politics and Cinema. The movements of protests of May 68 in France and in many places in the world were influenced by the techniques shown in The Battle of Algiers. A nation that has been occupied for more than a century that could get his freedom was more than inspiring to the young revolutionaries. Many cinephiles of the time recall that these people used to bring paper and pen to the presentations of The Battle of Algiers taking notes on how to start a revolution. The realism of the actions displayed and the natural acting of those non professional actors was a big factor that made this film so unique and powerful.
On a historical value, Pontecorvo directed a very rich depiction of events that occurred less than a decade before the film was shot. It has two historical ways to analyze this complexity. First, the subject is still hot and the memory of the witness and participants of these events is still fresh and uncompromised by the time and the nostalgia or the retreat. It is almost as if Pontecorvo got in the street and shot images while the events actually occurred. A lot like Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center made shortly after the sad events of September 9/11. In the case of The Battle of Algiers, it was clear that the side of the revolutionaries was the side of the heroes and that the Independence of Algeria was the ultimate ending to the film.
Nevertheless, this case of documenting a fresh event like this doesn’t let the test of time and the step back we normally would take to analyze and fully understand the effects of the events displayed. In both cases of The Battle of Algiers and World Trade Center, what counts is the demonstration of how the events occurred in a certain gaze. A great case of Historical study and step back would be the dual films of Clint Eastwood; Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima displaying the two opponents, the two sides, and how they were involved in History.
Meanwhile, The Battle of Algiers has a strong historical value even if it’s a fictional film displaying events in an Algerian “partisanery”. Take the time to discover the wonderful Blu-Ray treatment of the film by Criterion Collection, it is worth the look.