Tuesday 22 May 2018
‘Terrorists Battle Colonialists in Algiers’ 2018
The Battle of Algiers (1966) A Gillo Pontecorvo Film
European Quarter 1954
An outstanding film for which I have no historical context to understand. The title made me think it was probably going to be a World War 2 film whereas it was actually set between 1954 and 1957 in the European Quarter of Algiers.
The film is a graphic portrayal of cells of Arabs rebelling against the French ruling forces. With consummate skill, director Pontecorvo creates a realistic documentary-style story which follows four cell group leaders and their leader, Djafar. It also follows various groups of French soldiers including – in the second half – the Paratroopers who are brought in to track down the rebel leaders.
The way Pontecorvo and the screenplay present the story is extraordinary for its attention to detail. The aftermath of some of the bombings is so realistic some viewers could be forgiven for thinking it’s documentary or newsreel footage. There is an overall authenticity in its scale and production values that is staggering. I have hardly ever seen a film with some many actors and extras that feels like I am watching real life unfold before my eyes.
The script takes the viewer right inside the terrorist cell groups and provides believable planning and execution of their attacks on French soldiers and European citizens. The destruction and the special effects and the acting by the (often dead) extras is superb. The music, particularly after the bombings, as medical staff and soldiers clear away the dead and injured, is very moving.