Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Soviet: Conflict (1983, Garri Bardin)

Konflikt / Conflict (1983)
Soviet Union, 7 min
Directed by: Garri Bardin
Written by: Garri Bardin
Having seen all sorts of anti-Cold War films from the United States, it was refreshing to watch a film from the other side in the conflict. At the very least, it's reassuring to know that both sides were equally terrified at the prospect of nuclear war. Garri Bardin's Conflict (1983) is similar in principle to Norman McLaren's Neighbours (1952). However, instead of animating real-life people for an anti-war protest, Bardin uses matchsticks – an appropriate metaphor given that even the slightest spark of conflict could very well have ended in the destruction of our entire race {take the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, for example}. In the film, two groups of matches are separated by an arbitrary boundary line – obviously representing the Berlin Wall – which is guarded vigilantly by armed soldiers on either side. When, by no fault of anyone, the boundary shifts slightly, a minor territory dispute escalates into a globe-shattering altercation.

Conflict has a simple point to make, and it makes it well. The matchsticks from both territories initially emerge from the same matchbox, suggesting that they're merely fighting with themselves over arbitrary distinctions. McLaren's Neighbours had a peculiar quirkiness that, I thought, was counter-productive to the serious message that was trying to be made, but here Bardin makes it work with something similar. But the little visual gags – the cavalry, weapons and vehicles, all made from matchsticks – give way to horror in the final minutes, when the conflict climaxes in a nuclear strike, which leaves armies of matchsticks flailing in the flames. The final shots are not unlike the post-apocalyptic sequences in the Terminator films. Charred matchsticks stand lonely against a barren backdrop, an environment utterly devoid of life. For a long time, that's where we were headed. The Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

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