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The Battle of Algiers

In: Film and Music

Submitted By danteramunno
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Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers is a must see movie for all. From acting to directing to politics, the audience cannot help but appreciate the film and see all of its glory. But one cannot watch it without understanding and accepting the true meaning behind this film. It is the real deal about anti-colonialism and freedom. Pontecorvo sets it up as a documentary, not wanting to take any sides. The film is very straightforward and makes the viewer feel like they are really there by a lot of the scenes that are shot. The score plays a big role in the movie by adding suspense, tension, and unity. The film had a lot of criticism when it first came out because it was the first movie set in Algeria, the first movie about anti-colonialism, and the first movie that showed a lot of violence and torture scenes.
The Battle of Algiers is about a freedom fighter Algerian group called the National Liberation Front, or the FLN, who is trying to gain their independence from the French foreign legion in the early 1960’s. It is a bout a clash between two groups of people who wholeheartedly believe they have the right to occupy the land of Algeria. The French have been ruling there for the past 150 years without any resistance, so they believe why should they give it up all of a sudden. Yet the Algerians have dwelled in this land forever and feel like it is time to stand up and gain their independence. The opening scene starts out with a torture scene; any film that starts out that way makes the audience feel like they are about to go on an intense roller coaster. They have to embrace themselves for what is to lie ahead, especially in this film. Ali, who is the main character, is introduced and right away the viewer can see the “wanted revenge” and “freedom fight” in his face without him even saying a word. He has to past a test set by Jaffar, one of the leaders of the resistance movement, to see if the FLN can trust him. This shows how serious the situation in Algeria was at the time and how it was one of the many effective tactics of the well-organized FLN.
Tension and violence is starting to grow at a fast rate. The French have to send down Colonel Mathieu, who is a well-known commander, to run the French military and police. His goal is to end the Algerian resistance. The French and the FLN are becoming more hostile to one another. Each group executes bombings and shootings on the other. The scene of the FLN girls receiving orders from Jaffar, the man who makes the bombs planting them in their purses, the girls dropping them off at different locations, and when the bombs go off killing innocent people is a powerful sequence to the audience. Also, the scenes of all the torturing and other killings are a powerful message as well. We see the extraordinary measures that were taken. Each side believed these were essential actions of war. It wasn’t about what is right or wrong; it was about the necessary steps needed to be done and accomplished to win the war.
At the end of The Battle of Algiers, Jaffar and many of the FLN leaders are arrested or killed. Ali stays in his hideout knowing that the bomb is about to kill him and everyone else inside. He and many other resistant Algerians would rather die then give in and conform to the French military. The final scene of the film is taken place a couple years after Ali dies. It shows Algerian groups protesting and rioting to the French military. The movie ends by the man on the mic narrating that on July 2, 1962 a new Algerian nation was born.
One of the aspects about the picture is that it is filmed as a documentary. Pontecorvo did not want his film to be a propaganda film. He just wanted to take a serious story and film it; he just wanted to show everyone the truth behind this story of the fight for freedom by the Algerians to the French. The viewer felt inclined to be on the Algerian side because it was a fight for independence, but overall it had a neutral feeling to it. France was furious at the film and did not allow it to be shown in their theaters for the first six years, but they were bitter about all of the world noticing how they lost Algeria.
Another feature about The Battle of Algiers is the real life feeling that the audience is there in the scene. Some of scenes in the film felt like they could be real footage, especially the protests and the bombings. The technique is almost invisible. When a bomb goes off, it does not look staged. Also, Pontecorvo used all non-actors except for a couple, and even then the only main character that was an actor was Colonel Mathieu. This use of non-actors really authenticated the film and the audience felt like they had a first hand look of the situation between the FLN and the French. The score of the film raised the bar to another level. Its use of Algerian drums gave the viewer the feeling of suspense and tension. It also adding unity between the two sides in the film because Pontecorvo would play the same sound when each group was picking up their dead after the bombings.
One might not think The Battle of Algiers is much of an Italian film because it was filmed and set about Algeria. But the way it was filmed and directed had an Italian feeling to it. Italian filmmakers at that time were becoming more courageous about what they would show in their movies and the meaning behind them. And the Italians experienced a similar situation while dealing with the Germans occupying their land during WWII. This film has had a big effect on other famous directors and actors, and even on the people in today’s world. If you are wanting to become an actor, director, or score a film, you must see this movie. If you want to experience a film to it’s fullest and understand its true meaning rather than just try to enjoy something, you must see this movie. After watching The Battle of Algiers it is very true that the audience cannot just like the film, they have to deal with it as well; which is why this film is set at such a high bar.

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