Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Standard Operating Procedure" (Documentary) (2008) - Movie Review

Couple of week back I went to a Halloween party and of course had too much to drink. I randomly remember flashes around me which apparently was people taking pictures. When I saw it with me inebriated, dozed I felt something wrong out there. Of course nothing wrong than a crazy drunk but for an outsider looking it would be a clear stamp of me being a complete alcoholic. That moment is sealed for good and wrong reasons. When the Abu Ghraib prison’s infamous pictures came out I remember my reaction towards the soldiers in the pictures. Degraded and despised them for their actions. What “Standard Operating Procedure” does is asks what could have they done. Or doing the right thing would have made it worth? Or is it even wrong when in war everything is declared right with the person in power?

Errol Morris directed documentary thankfully does not go over the wrong decision of going on war to Iraq again. It interviews the soldiers who were in the pictures and who took them and their state of mind in doing so. What propelled them to smile and pose thumbs up on a naked Iraqi prisoner humiliated and psychologically tortured? The photographs as such are a symbol of inhumanity but the smile on their face made it psychopathic.

Morris depicts the actions through some acted out scenes in shadowy and blurry films. With heavily stylized shots of high quality HD, for a sufficient time I was not comfortable by the fact of shining these disgraceful events with super clarity images. But understood as the film went on that it is the style of the film maker. It bothered me but the idea is to disturb on the actual events far worse than what happened inside the frames of the photos.

We see soldiers explaining the scenario with something only can be said as an absence of empathy. The relative nature of an actual human being reacting to the cruelty in the prison and them are not something to be even mentioned. But the truth is more than that. It is about the orders and a man in control of charming and dominating characteristics. There is a female sergeant who took the photos reading the letters she sent to her husband of the horrendous scene the prison makes her to witness. She has also smiled and posed thumbs up. When asked why she did that, the reply was that she has always been used to do in front of a camera. And if she did not have it would have only brought more trouble to the unsettling figure of actual human emotions in light.

Sitting at the comforts of many things any one would call them dumb enough to take photographs and cowards not to stand up to the authority on the wrong doings. Judgments come for free and with plenty of feeling good about oneself. As explained clearly by an interviewee, if they would have not followed the order they would have been in trouble and they did and they are still in trouble. Another says the only thing she would have done different is to not join the military. Explaining how shocking it was is futile as it is redundant.

What happened in that prison seeing beyond the frames of the pictures, the situations of war and obeying orders is nothing but a psychological warfare of being in control. As happened in the infamous Stanford Experiment which also was made in to a German film “Das Experiment” when the most regular human being are given the role of guards and prisoners, the result was bad. Nothing violent but the psychological humiliation keeps the prisoner in their cell obeyed and in constant fear and pain.

The film nails its goal when the army investigator of this explains how to classify a “Criminal Act” and “Standard Operating Procedure” which becomes an insult of the logic and conclusions out of it. The film provides the story out of those images and says the cover up of throwing people under the bus. What happened was wrong and the soldiers accept it and wonder who they were at that point of time. One was driven by love, one was driven by loyalty, one was driven by the anger, one was driven by fear but beyond that came the mantra of “This is war and sh*t happens”.


Barath said...

boss indha madhiri documentary DVD kedaichaa vaangi anuppunga!

Ashok said...

I will try to hunt down some of the documentaries and send it to you when some one comes.