Friday, 21 May 2021

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - the Last Post


I've been working my way through lists of war and anti-war films, I stumbled upon this Argentine short film about the Falklands conflict and was intrigued, can't think of many films that tackle it outside of films about the UK in the 80s which use it as a sort of footnote.

Its 16 minutes including credits and can be viewed on the directors youtube channel Santanna Brothers Films,

The Falklands War, 1982. In the heat of battle, a young British soldier, Mark, deserts his post, only to be captured by an injured Argentinean, Jose Francisco. Gradually the two men form an understanding of friendship and trust, until the arrival of a unit of British Paras, who force Mark to choose between his patriotic duty and his conscience. BAFTA Nominated film starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Kevin Knapman

The few reviews and snippets I've seen are of a similar vein and talk about its bleak message for example this off IMDB

This film tells us that there is no sides that are all good and all bad in a war.

 To put it bluntly its all nonsense. It doesn't tell us this at all, I don't even believe the Last Post qualifies as an anti-war or even war sceptical film. Its pretty blatant in showing who it thinks are the bad in that war. 

In outline its quite similar to many other stories about conflict, including some that are openly opposing conflict as an endeavour, two soldiers from opposite sides find themselves in close contact with each other and both isolated from their sides. There's tension as they try and navigate this frightening environment and eventually try to reach some common ground with language barriers being just one of the obstacles. Its similar to the film about the break up of Yugoslavia No Man's Land (also from 2001) about two Bosniaks and a Serb in a trench in between the lines.

But the issue is in the framing, the ugliness of war is all put on one side, the British who are clearly shown as the aggressors, Knapman and his unit are introduced night marching towards Argentine positions, the post where the surviving Gael Garcia Bernal is sheltering has already been neutralised with the rest of the Argentines already dead. The brief shots of Argentina depict it as a perfectly nice and ordinary nation, not the turbulent, brutal and crumbling dictatorship it was. And there isn't really much tension at all, Bernal surrenders quickly the two don't really bond beyond sharing a cigarette so there's not much in the tragedy of Knapman's decision at the climax when Bernal is murdered and his body used as a cruel and pointless insult to his loved ones, and that's it. Brits attack, Brits torment, Brits murder, Brits desecrate a corpse. 

My disquiet isn't that I don't find this believable, the really nasty Brit soldiers are Paras to make it even more believable that they would do such a thing. Its that this film seems to have been made to feed into Argentine myths of victimhood. Ever since losing the conflict many Argentine governments and cultural luminaries have put a lot of time and effort into constructing a myth of victimisation from British Imperialism, totally erasing the century or more of collaboration with the British government, the brutal military dictatorship that was in the middle of a bloody civil war against its own population and the invasion and occupation of the islands and the oppression of its civilian population. The only thing the Argentine government and military is shown to be at fault for is being out of its depth.

The Last Post, an Argentine film supposedly about the ill effects of war and uses this conflict as its platform fails to address or even acknowledge any of this and that's frankly cowardly if the intent wasn't deliberately made to appeal to this revanchist spirit. 

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