The Fog Machine of War: Full Battle Rattle
An essay on Jesse Moss and Tony Gerber’s documentary for Fandor Keyframe.
The film is disarmingly funny because it teeters on the edge of absurdity at all times: we watch a paid actor’s flustered takes of an on-the-ground news report in Medina Wasl from the vantage point of a documentarian’s camera; American soldiers who roleplay as the town’s citizens scream “go home Yankees” at their fellow servicemen. The most strange and discomforting scene in the film involves a fake funeral service for a fallen soldier. It comes right after the battalion is ‘wiped out’ by an ambush and the emotional anguish of that failure is compounded by the painfully authentic eulogy being delivered; troops shed tears for their fictive fallen friend. Moss and Gerber don’t dwell on the charged emotion, though, they undercut it by moving to a commanding officer giving brief notes to the eulogist on his delivery of Psalm 21.