Shocking depictions that do nothing to help year search for the truth - Telegraph
Former TV director Paul Greengrass talks to John Patterson about his latest an earnest Guardian reporter", as hg00880.info, the online arts magazine, rather "By the time I'd done Bloody Sunday I felt I reached the end of a chapter. We went to see the original on the spur of the moment, on a date, lovely. James Nesbitt as Civil Rights leader Ivan Cooper Director Paul Greengrass . The live rendition of U2's Sunday, Bloody Sunday continues to play for a full three "Bloody Sunday" is a very startling, cinema-verite recreation of a very specific date . Amazon Affiliates. Amazon Video Watch Movies & TV Online · Prime Video. THE 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday will be marked by television and film- makers such as Jimmy McGovern and Paul Greengrass are.
We will no doubt be faced with them again and again as the 40th and 50th anniversaries come around. The Bloody Sunday wound will never heal while films like these are made, while the Saville tribunal drags on and while republicans can claim that justice has been denied.
The Bernadette Devlin character closes the Greengrass film saying: Everything comes down to deciding whether particular soldiers were justified in firing particular shots, to determining what was in the mind of a soldier when he pulled the trigger.
Evidence, if it exists at all, is already disputed and murky and grows less reliable as memories erode. The kind of justice demanded by these films is, I would say, unobtainable. Tony Blair would have done more for the Roman Catholics of the Bogside and Creggan if, instead of ordering a new inquiry, he had built them a hospital or a school. I prefer the American plea of nolo contendere, which effectively means "I don't admit wrongdoing but I promise not to do it again".
Perhaps something like that is the best resolution anyone can hope for. Keeping year-old wounds gaping serves no one but the IRA who, as the Greengrass film correctly notes, had their biggest victory that day.
McGovern's Sunday, made for Channel Four, is the more nuanced of the films, with powerful women trying to keep their men out of the IRA. But his is also the more violent and will probably be even more offensive to a British audience than Greengrass's Bloody Sunday, for ITV1 and cinemas, which has already been condemned by some as viciously anti-British.
In fact, Greengrass seems to accept that Army officers planned only to "scoop up" stone-throwers and rioters in a swift arrest operation, while their men had other ideas. He shows officers desperately ordering a fruitless search for civilian weapons to justify the shootings. Neither film gives any credence to individual soldiers' accounts of being attacked by gunmen and nail-bombers. No soldier is known to have been wounded on the day, except for one who apparently shot himself in the foot.
The Paras' version of events, such as one of the soldiers telling Widgery that he fired 18 shots at a bathroom window, are frankly ridiculed. Both films have bloodthirsty Paras gloating about people they killed and egging each other on to lie about how many rounds they fired and why.
McGovern has Paras celebrating in a bar back in barracks that night. When a priest appears on television to condemn the shootings, one of the soldiers jeers at the screen: This pressure is passed to local brigade commanders by Gen Ford, who tells them: This, of course, is guesswork. In the end, Lord Widgery believed the paratroopers but could find nothing more than "very strong suspicions" that some of the dead had been handling bombs or guns.
Both films show the Paras seeking vengeance for soldiers killed by the IRA, regardless of what their officers may have intended. Greengrass depicts the 1 Para CO, Lt Col Derek Wilford, as eager to show what his men can do, while talking all the time about "scooping up" rioters and ordering them to fire only if fired upon. It is not clear who fires first in the Greengrass film. The soldiers seem to think they have been shot at and the next thing we see is two civilians lying on the ground.
McGovern's "dramatised reconstruction" has over-excited Paras firing from rooftops at the crowd. In fact, McGovern seems to give two different versions of the Army shootings. One, bloody enough, is more consistent with what the soldiers told Widgery; the other far more sinister and horrifying - apparently based on accounts since attributed to a soldier who took part.
IRA men appear on the edges of the action in both films. Jean Baudrillard has stressed the immensely symbolical force of suicide attacks: The radical difference is that terrorists, while having at their disposal all the arms of the system, have also another fatal weapon: If they limited themselves to fighting the system with its own weapons, they would be immediately eliminated. If they did not oppose the system with their own death, they would disappear as quickly as a useless sacrifice; this has almost always been the fate of terrorism until now thus the Palestinian suicidal attacks and the reason why it could not but fail.
Everything changed as soon as they allied all available modern means to this highly symbolic weapon. The latter infinitely multiplies their destructive potential.
It is the multiplica- tion of these two factors which seem to us so irreconcilable that gives them such superiority. BaudrillardThe fact, in other words, that modern terror and modern terrorism originate at the same time as the modern concept of the human and modern democracy is no ac- cident. The human with its bare life is situated at the centre of the political system, being both subject and object, delinquent and victim.
Rather than the violence of the real being there first, and the frisson of the image being added to it, the image is there first, and the frisson of the real is added. Violence in itself may be perfectly banal and inoffensive.
Only symbolic violence is generative of singularity. Baudrillard29 Considering fictional filmic renderings of historical terrorist attacks, this medial re-creation of an attack is necessarily characterised by a fundamental paradox that is inherent in any terrorist outrage. In other words, terror- ism can only come into being if it is mediated, or, to be more precise: Considering the rhetorical dimension of terrorism, the aforementioned effect of silence is of utmost importance in the medial form of an outrage.
This effect is also described by Richard Kirkland: Indeed, it has been the traditional role of language in the immediate after- math of a terrorist atrocity to present itself as unable to capture the overwhelming materiality of the event itself.
What, so the argument runs, can words offer in the face of such violence? Understood as such, every terrorist outrage becomes unspeakable. Kirkland77 The failure and ultimate collapse of language in the face of terrorism has nowhere been more obvious than in the endless television repetitions of the collapsing World Trade Centre or George W.
The silence finds its apt counterpart and expression in the cultural artefacts that try to deal with terrorism: A similar paralysis can be found in the realm of cultural production. When surveying the now extensive tradition of cultural representations of Northern Irish violence it is noticeable that the individual terrorist act is often identified only by the traces it leaves behind [ Kirkland77 It has to be stressed, though, that speechlessness is only an effect and in no way contradicts my thesis that a terrorist attack is first and foremost a rhetorical act: It is important to state at the outset that the categories of the unspeakable and unimag- inable are anything but fixed and determinate limits on the domain of words and im- ages respectively.
They are, rather, rhetorical tropes that simultaneously invoke and overcome the limitations of language and depiction, discourse and display. The invo- cation of the unspeakable is invariably expressed in and followed by an outpouring of words: MitchellThe effect is a fundamental paradox.
Since its origins in the wake of the French Revolution, a terrorist attack is not mainly aimed at its actual victims but at the spectators which, at least in the 20th and 21st centuries, can only be reached via modern forms of media, be it print, television or the internet. That is also to say that silence, the unspeakable or speechlessness are only possible in discursive form.
The question arising now is how an aesthetic, especially a cinematic treatment can explore and do justice to the rhetorical qualities of terrorism.
It is my thesis that the fundamental paradox of the terrorist attack, characterised by both reality and mediacy, has an immediate impact on the form of the films concerned: Both Bloody Sunday and United 93 create the semblance of reality and authenticity by making use of all the technical possibilities of the medium.
What this actually means, I want to explore discussing both films. One answer to this question is that the films Bloody Sunday and United 93 hide their narrative structure, or even pretend they do not have any. This is an effect created by their hyperrealism: Both films pose the question of how to approach the subjects of terror, terrorism and terrorist attacks in artefacts.
Bloody Sunday (film) - Wikipedia
It is my main thesis that it is not the actual staging or screening of an attack but the function of a film that is fundamentally different from the real event. And this function is actually the result of their rhetorical effect: The films achieve this function by actually re-creating the same effect as the outrage, namely speechlessness.
This date marks the crossroads be- tween the Civil Rights Movement and the Troubles, the violent radicalisation of the Northern Irish Conflict and the terrorist attacks committed by the Irish Re- publican Army.
As a Protestant and British Member of Parliament in a thoroughly Catholic community, Cooper is torn between Catholicism and Protes- tantism and thus symbolises the deeply torn nature of the country as well as the opposites that the Civil Rights Movement intended to reconcile.
Next to Cooper, the two other central characters are Gerard Donaghy, a young Catholic in love with a Protestant girl who had spent some time in gaol due to his anti-British ri- oting and who therefore also represents the schizophrenic and paradox situation of the country.
Thus, the film does not pretend to have no central characters or no narrative at all. Nevertheless, it creates the effect of being an immediate document of reality. Sty- listically and technically, this effect is created by the handheld camera and the close and yet unfocussed vicinity to the events that the spectators find themselves Ralf Haekel in; effects that are actually created through a heightened use of media techniques rather than through the absence of the medium: Alcobia-MurphyThis is further stressed by the fact that many of the actors are not professionals but amateurs; in fact, the soldiers are played by actual soldiers who were stationed in Northern Ireland: Bloody Sunday gives the spectator the idea that a story is being followed which yet is not narrated.
Narratologically speaking, the narrator of the film moves almost completely into the background while the images are almost exclusively presented through focalisers or focalising instances. The storyline created through these focalisers then abruptly ends with the beginning of violence. Once the British Army opens fire on the marchers, chaos breaks out, mirrored in the disruption of the story; the narration, which was only in the background anyway, seems to stop entirely.
While the opening scenes of the film concentrate on the preparations of the peace march and on certain key char- acters, the beginning of the open conflict immediately changes that: The film therefore brilliantly reflects the confusion and hope- lessness of the marchers after the first shots had been fired. At the beginning of the conflict, there is only a clash between the soldiers and those protestors in support of violence, i.
The situation escalates as soon as the two different groups of protestors — peaceful marchers and the more radical youths — are united again after a brief separation on their route through the town. A helpless man lying on the ground is executed and another man who wants to help the injured is shot as well: People are fleeing aimlessly away from the soldiers, and the handheld camera that runs away with them creates and effect of immediacy and authenticity.
Immediately after these scenes a complete silence sets in. The men in the police station are utterly shocked as they hear the news on the telephone: The immediate witnesses on the street are speechless as well. All the other characters are silent as well. Violence, the film tells us here, creates speechlessness. This speechlessness creates a void that is, in turn, filled by terrorism with its non- discursive discursiveness.
The future escalation of violence in Northern Ireland is further anticipated by a brief dialogue between the British soldiers. The more moderate soldier introduced at the beginning accuses another soldier who boasts of having killed the people on the street: I saw you shoot civvies.
I never even saw a gunman. You were there with us. The soldiers thus create a narrative, ending again in silence, that distorts and even justifies the events and the escalation of violence. This narrative is one side of the upcoming violence of the Northern Irish troubles. It is accompanied by the silence of the British authorities preventing a fair and quick analysis of the events. This narrative finds its counterpart on the side of the increasingly radical republicans.
The film shows how members of the IRA immediately begin to recruit new members who will then be responsible for the terrorist attacks of the following decade — silently handing out weapons.
The film ends with a text the historical Ivan Cooper read out at a press conference in which now sounds like a prophecy: This afternoon 27 people were shot in this city. They were innocent, we were there. This is our Sharpeville.
This is our Amritsar massacre. A moment of truth and a moment of shame. And I just want to say this to the British government: You have destroyed the civil rights movement and you have given the IRA the biggest victory it will ever have.
All over this city tonight, young men, boys, will be joining the IRA. And you will reap a whirlwind. Bloody Sunday1: The medium of film is able to create an- other effect of speechlessness which is in no sense an effect of the sublime. The aesthetics of the film does not follow the rules of the sublime but rather does some- thing radically different by showing the effect violence has on the spectators, the terror and lack of words it creates.
Thus, Bloody Sunday is able to transcend mere documentation by adding a level of reflection. The camera makes the audience com- plicit with the victims and the immediate witnesses, and it therefore relates the im- mediate affect of terror to the reflexive passion the spectator experiences. The movie thus performs a remarkable feat: Through this aesthetic function the film turns into a site of memory aiding viewers and especially victims Ralf Haekel to come to terms with traumatising past events: The film tries to capture the events taking place on 11 September aboard the eponymous airplane of United Airlines.
This is the plane which ultimately never reached its target and crashed into an open field.
The film begins by separately showing the hijackers and the other pas- sengers as they slowly approach each other and meet while checking in and board the airplane. The passengers remain relatively anonymous; there is no central character, not to mention a hero.
The effect is again the same as in Bloody Sunday: This impression is increased by the fact that all the actors play real persons and that, whenever this is possible, they utter the exact same words the real passengers used — for instance, as documented in registered and recorded phone-calls. But this appearance of distance and anonymity is also characteristic for the fictitious genre of the disaster movie in general: Schneider69 The other actors were also cast according to the principle used in Bloody Sunday: Finally, the film is shot in real time.
All this creates an effect of authenticity. Nevertheless, as hard as the movie tries to reach this aim, it cannot be totally neutral. The spectators know that the terrorists are in fact terrorists before the other passengers can be aware of this or even sense the danger they are in.
Shocking depictions that do nothing to help 30-year search for the truth
Further- more, the real reason for the eventual crash of the machine into an open field near Shanksville remains as unclear as the aim of the attack — presumably the White House.
So, the film has to make a choice: United 93 narrates the widely known thesis that the passengers prevented the attack in an act of heroism by stopping the hijackers. Furthermore, the hijackers, especially their leader Ziad Jarrah, are doubt- ridden and shown to be hesitating. This form of hesitation is moving the film psychologically into the vicinity of the expectations of a typical Western audience rather than keeping a neutral eye on the events.
The reality effect the film had on its first audiences was immense. People were generally shocked by what they saw; they cried and had to leave the theatre. Generally, the press praised the film for its authenticity and realism, but Daniel Mendelsohn, in an article published in the New York Review of Books, criticizes the film for exactly the same reason: Future generations no longer familiar with the events would only be baffled by the film, it would have no effect at all, which is the reason why this film, he claims, differs from a classical Greek tragedy that has an effect to this very day.
Although this form of criticism is justified to a certain extent, Mendelsohn overlooks one crucial aspect. The lack of narrative structure and the non- discursive discursiveness are the logical consequence of the rhetorical structure of an assault.
Terrorism and Trauma: Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday and United 93 | Ralf Haekel - hg00880.info
Since terrorist outrages fundamentally depend on the rhetorical and sublime effect of speechlessness and silence, a film dealing with terrorism some- how has to come to terms with this effect.
The function is, again, rhetorical: The effect of the real and the authentic, in turn, changes them into awe-inspiring aspects that result in speechlessness. In order to work against the sublime effect of the original attacks, Greengrass uses the same technique in United 93 that he applied in Bloody Sunday; he takes up the speechlessness created by terrorism but undermines its effect of the sublime by creating a silent monument of memory which is part of the historical work to overcome a severe trauma.
Both films are highly self-referential, reflecting the medial possibilities to ap- proach their subject matter to an astonishing degree.
In other words, Greengrass introduces a level of reflection indicating that a movie can never approach reality immediately. In Bloody Sunday, this medial element is a street map hanging on the wall of the central police station. Using this map, the policemen try to figure out where exactly the people are marching this very moment and where the policemen should be.
They get their information via telephone and try to give directions back. Within the police station, nobody has an immediate access to reality, yet it is here that decisions should be made.