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The film The Battle of Algiers, published in 1966, adds a powerful insight to imperialism and colonial revolution. The film takes place in the city of Algiers during the time when France controlled Algeria but when revolutions were taking place. The film covers the time when the FLN ( Front de Libération Nationale or National Liberation Front) attempted to stop France’s reign over Algeria. FLN members engaged in a war against French forces over several years, and used bombs and guerrilla warfare to advance their goals. The French retaliated by using brutal tactics (mainly torture) to gain information about the FLN. This did receive international attention, but France was mostly allowed to continue in their efforts unimpeded. Over time, the French forces arrested or killed all the leaders of the FLN, and the uprising was stopped. Several years later, at the very end of the film, thousands of people began protesting for Algerian freedom and sovereignty. This peaceful protesting eventually caused the French to give Algeria freedom.
Based off of the main plot and premise of the film, some main themes included in the film are a distrust of Europeans being the most ethical, a solid affirmation of nonviolent protesting techniques, and a negative view of using violent independence movements. The film spends the overwhelming majority on the FLN’s violent techniques that were used in the hopes of gaining Algerian independence, yet the FLN fails to achieve this goal; all FLN leaders were eventually killed or captured. The film doesn’t decide to change history and make the FLN movement successful, but instead allows for the nonviolent protest have little correlation with the violent events perpetrated by the FLN. In addition, the nonviolent protests that happened at the end had little casualties and were ultimately successful. The film basically endorses nonviolence as the best way for a colony to gain independence, and states that violent protests don’t always obtain peace, and oftentimes fail. The violent actions of the FLN and the reactions by the French also cause for many innocent bystanders to die. Most of the bombing events include a lot of shots of the dead bodies, and includes a depiction of the victim’s lives before being murdered. Nonviolent actions and protests are helpful, not because Europeans are somehow more righteous and just, but because nonviolent protests get the job done. The French are not morally pure in this film. They engage in many actions against human rights through the torture of prisoners for information. When questioned on the morality of such acts, the Colonel responds by saying that this plan of action was the only option to keep an Algerian France, creating a dichotomy many would refer to as a false one. While the Colonel’s plan eventually led to FLN leaders being either killed or captured, the morality of what he ordered is clearly portrayed by the film as negative. Towards the end of the film there are several different torture techniques put up for display by the viewer, and they are all grisly, dark, and contain people in immense pain. The French also bomb some buildings in the Muslim district of Algiers, and seem to act with more brutality than the FLN forces. This questions the morality of European or Western countries, and puts forward the idea that Western civilization is not inherently righteous in all they do. After all, the film is about an independence movement! The film has themes that give value statements about revolutions and Western nations.
In terms of acting, the film maintains a solid acting performance, with plenty of special effects on the side. The screenplay involving the victims of bombings is incredibly useful for creating an empathy for those killed. They were just minding their own business: the teens dancing, the adults drinking, and the people in the airport. After the bombings, the film takes a closer look at the still and dead bodies, where one gets to realize the gravity of the situation (innocent people died!). The music fit the general atmosphere of the film quite nicely, and for the most part the film focused on both the Colonel’s efforts to catch the FLN’s leaders and the FLN’s leaders’ lives during this period. The two forces are both in the narrative lens, and the viewer can see both sides doing separate actions. As far as symbolism goes, the Colonel and the French symbolize Western authority, which allows for the theme of distrust of the inherent morality of Western Nations. Character development remains generally static, and characters don’t seem to change as much when compared to other movies. However, the character of the Colonel is blatantly visible by even a single viewing of the film: he shows little emotion or empathy. While the content of the film was highly interesting and very thought provoking, the black and white elements, constant subtitles, and low quality sound of the film would make the film less appealing to young people
While not a documentary, the film generally understands the majority of the history well. It does, however, give some things more emphasis than others. For example, the film basically denies that the FLN had any role whatsoever in Algerian independence, yet the violent protesting of the FLN could cause more people to think about independence more (propagate the idea). The film strongly describes the way to independence being one entirely of nonviolence, which makes the film good because it will most likely cause more revolutionaries to consider following the example of Algeria’s way to independence utilized at the end of the movie, causing less innocent deaths. This is also a weakness of the film because it basically removes any possibility of the use of force against an evil enemy. In the face of a cruel and unjust authority, nonviolent protesting does not always work as romanticized and idealistic as in The Battle of Algiers. The film does mainly orbit around facts, but this part seemed to give a viewpoint that belittles the actions of the FLN almost indefinitely.
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