Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ILLUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO (BLESSED BY FIRE)

ILLUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO
(BLESSED BY FIRE)

6th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


Movies about both World Wars, the Vietnam War and now the Iraq war abound but it is rare that we see one about the Falkland War. The film focuses on this war which was fought in 1982 between Britain and Argentina who battled for possession of this tiny island (known as Malvinas) off the shores of Argentina.
It is seen through the eyes of Esteban, a Falkland war veteran who suddenly had to relive his war memories. The wife of Vargas (his fellow combatant) informs Esteban that Vargas committed suicide and was comatose in a hospital. In fact at the beginning of the film, they report that the suicide rate among Falkland war veterans was almost as much as the actual casualties during the war. Quite alarming! Esteban now a journalist is still haunted by the war so he decides to visit the island for some closure.

A melancholic film intertwined with flashbacks of battle scenes which are violent, bleak and heart wrenching as expected from most war movies. The jarring hand held camera effect of those gory scenes can make you dizzy but it was an authentic way to portray them. It also exposes the harsh conditions the soldiers had to face in that damp cold island. Lack of proper uniform, nutritional meals and exposed to the cold weather, the soldiers were mostly young men recruited from the poorest sector of society. Fighting in a war perpetrated by the dictatorial regime present in Argentina during that period, a war they fought ill equipped in every sense of the word.

The 3 friends who were only 18 years old during the war develop a special bond and share each other's fears as well as their future plans. Well developed characters who tug at your heartstrings. You also get a sense of what happened to Vargas after the war as narrated by his wife who laments the fact that it pretty much altered Vargas' state of mind. Their coping mechanism is very weak and they succumb to alcoholism, gambling even mental illnesses. I guess it is common among veterans of any war but it is still alarming to find out these pieces of information.

The film in my opinion doesn't so much as condemn the government for involving their citizens in a war they were bound to lose but aims to present the fact that war in itself isn't the solution. It was interesting to watch a film about a war which history has forgotten. A film which pays homage to the young men who risked their lives to fight for their country even though most of them didn't grasp the very concept of war.

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