Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille Day: Les Carabiniers

War is a trick on most of its participants.

Et le printemps m'a apporté l'affreux rire de l'idiot / And Spring brought to me the dreadful laughter of an idiot. -- Arthur Rimbaud, Une Saison en enfer / A Season in Hell (1873).

In Jean-Luc Godard's Les Carabiniers / The Riflemen (1963), two recruited volunteer soldiers send postcards back to the home front; later, they bring back a stash of them in person, sorted and bundled by genre. One veteran is missing an eye, and they have no money. 

What had they been promised going in?

"Each soldier can do as he wants in the name of the King."

"If we want, can we massacre innocent folks?"

"Yes, that's war." 

Postcards in the film carry the text of actual soldierly correspondence going back hundreds of years.

"We landed in Italy and lined our path with a thousand bodies."

"The day of glory is at hand!"

"We're sowing death in the families and fulfilling our bloody mission."

"We were trucked into Silesia to be firing squads and check on hangings."

"Ten hostages were shot today."

The Balkans, Chad, Congo, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan: sequel scenes from Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" . . . and that's just some of the wars of the last twenty years . . .

"The King and his people commemorate forever our sons' heroic combat in Europe and Oceania."

"There is no victory . . . only flags and fallen . . ."

And so the movie ends fittingly. Consider the following statements:

War is a quarrel between . . . thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village, stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against each other. -- Thomas Carlyle, as quoted in 1911 by Emma Goldman.

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." -- George Santayana, 1922.

Today's Rune: The Mystery.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

"There is no victory. Only flags and fallen." Wow, that one is powerful.