Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Phil Klay Redeployment

 In one of the final stories of Phil Klay Redeployment, a series of short stories on or about the experience of the Iraqi War, two characters discuss war films, ending with Full Metal Jacket.  They agree that young people became Marines from watching that movie than any other.  One character replies “And that is an anti-war story,” and the other counters: “there is no such thing as an anti-war story."

Here Klay makes an excellent.  Even the most radically anti-war stories wind up, ironically, making war look like something noble and heroic.  I believe this is primarily because war is at its essence is experiential: the sights, sounds, smells, fear, can’t be  reproduced in any medium.  So what do we get?  Movies like Saving Private Ryan, which despite the stark realism of its beginning ends with a message of redemption, as if war, in the conclusion, is more than the accumulated bodies dead and maimed. Only very brave story tellers like Folman's in Waltz with Bashir jars and disenchants his audience with the false appeal of war.

Klay’s Redeployed does a good job of avoiding these pitfalls.  All of the stories stress the great cost of war to those who wage it; when they are done experiencing this, the most harrowing of human endeavors, they find little solace and redemption.  The damage, physical, mental, or both, is done, and nothing can reverse it. 

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