11 Lessons
Today I saw
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons Learned from the Life of Robert S. McNamara.
(Highly recommended ****)
Errol Morris is masterful in this Oscar nominated documentary. Robert Mc Namara is definitely one of the intriguing and interesting characters of the 20th century. Phillip Glass' score is excellent. Eerie amd poignant. Morris weaves archival footage, audio tapes along with neat use of special effects as you hear McNamara talk. The use of the Morris' invention the "Interroton" does make a difference to face-to-face feel as McNamara talks.
While the director is quite a character himself (Errol Morris' website) he does not really appear to interfere apart from shouting out questions once in a while.
McNamara is both candid in his confessions. "Yeah, if we had lost the war we would have been war criminals", but also as the wily bureaucrat that he is also sidsteps difficult questions, " I'd rather not say anything. These kind of questions get me in trouble. I am damned if I do and I am damned if I don't. I'd rather be damned if I don't". The documentary moves back and forth through his life from Harvard to Ford to World War I to the Cuban missile crisis. Throughout you never lose the sense of talking to an old man both repentant and also unrepentant taking you back and forth as he remembers events.
He jokes about his middle name 'Strange'. Almost breaks into tears as he talk about the Kennedy funeral site. Was McNamara the egotistical, warmonger who kept the people and the press in the dark? or "just a President's man" as he says. McNamara does not admit his guilt after being asked by Morris but does admit that 'he made mistakes'. Morris does a great job with using the archival footage and then editing in effects and using old cutting from newspapers to create a montage of the adjectives used to describe McNamara.
I particularly liked the way he used footage showing bombs being dropped that transform into numbers from a chart from a previous scene. McNamara then explains the title. "War is such a complicated thing that one cannot take in account all the variables, hence it is always in a fog." The Gulf of Tonkin incident which he talks about is just that.
The film does not pass a judgement on McNamara and his actions. Rather leaves it the viewer to decide whether he was justified in the things that he did. What in my opinion what the movie really wants to state if it really does want to state anything is in the last quote from T.S. Eliot,
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."

No comments: