Sunday, November 26, 2017

Les sept déserteurs ou La guerre en vrac, Paul Vecchiali, 2017

There's not a single soldier in sight in Les sept déserteurs ou La guerre en vrac, and still it makes sense that Paul Vecchiali dedicates his film to, among others, Fuller and Wellman, the masters of the combat film. Because his film, like theirs, also uses war primarily as a mechanism of self-revelation through isolation. In Vecchiali's case, the war remains unnamed, and it takes place, in a very strict sense, outside the frame, and also (almost constantly) on the soundtrack, but never in the image itself. War can be told and heard, but never seen. Stray bullets may penetrate the frame and even kill the characters, but they never leave a visible trace on the actors, thereby delimiting another threshhold important for the film: between actor and character.

In a way, Vecchiali is even more serious about this seperation than Brechtian filmmakers like Straub / Huillet who always insist on the firstness of the performance and the profilmic. Because with Vecchiali it's not about priviledging the one (the actor / signifier) over the other (the character / signified), but about the co-existence of two realms: Les sept déserteurs ou La guerre en vrac is at the same time a gathering of seven actors, who meet on a single outdoor set supplemented by a handful of cleverly designed props, and are called up, first one by one, than in small, shifiting groups, to perform small acts, most of them very loosely structured around sex and death and all of them performed in a decidedly joyful, irreverent way, highlighting with proud stubbornness personal idiosyncrasies, especially in artfully stylized manners of speaking; and a film about a group of deserters and outcasts trying to escape from an omnipresents war. At least until the strange, magnificent last twist, there isn't a single rift between these two realms, as they are at the same time connected and seperated by the act of playing, which always involves a literal, materialist and a symbolic aspect.

No comments: