Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Gladiators (1969)

In a near future, much like Melvilles Alphaville, where everything looks the same, but something is really wrong, the Peace Game controls the world. Instead of fighting in each other countries, the leaders are arranges a war game on neutral ground - Sweden. It's more or less China against the rest of the world. We follow a couple of the soldiers, their commanders, one french member of the resistance and the two slackers (from the proud swedish police force) behind the controls. The commanders is drinking tea and eating canned spaghetti while the soldiers are out on the field fighting for their lifes. And everything - EVERYHING - is controlled by the machine...

Wow, this is one of those really cool unknown movies that has to be seen. The Gladiators is a UK-Sweden co-production and directed by Peter Watkins. There's actors from Sweden, England, France, Germany, China, Vietnam and a bunch of other countries and everyone is playing their own nationality. It's more or less a drama-documentary, which has a narrator, interviews and a Roy Andersson-sense of humour. The scenes out on the field is more loose, more energic and free, but everything outside is static and very basic - which makes it even funnier, and more worrying. The Peace Game is sponsored by a spaghetti-manufacturer and everything is just about money and how to spend as little as possible at the war and the soldiers.

Sweden is the neutral country in the game, which of course it bullshit. They're having the war on their ground, owning the machine controlling everything and is just weak cowards that can't handle a crisis. The swedish police force is presented as slow and naive (in one scene the swedish guards, chasing the french resistance, has to stop for red light for example!) and with no hope. Davidsson (Hans Bendrik) and Norberg (Björn Franzen) is the technicians and they're one of the best things with the movie. Dry and slow dialogue about nothing, just a day at the work - but also a symbol of those that accepted the machine and just don't care anymore, though they have the same opinions as the french resistance.

The irony is the only piece of love between the reds and the west is punished, harder than anything else in the movie. These leaders don't want peace. They want more money from sponsors, from their governments, more power. That's what it's all about. A curious thing about the movie is that at one point the soldiers are meeting a gang of hippie girls that will tease them, make them calm again before the killing starts. But it's not only girls, there one gay man to, being there to please... and it's no more comment on that in the movie. He's just there.

This is a unique, fun, smart and cynic look at the future - or what could have been the future, and maybe is "now", because it's all about symbols anyway. Do you want a lot of grey Sweden a really smart satire, this is the movie for you.

And I'm sure you won't be surprise to hear that this hasn't been released in Sweden yet? Because if it's something the swedish film companies don't care about, it's all the good movies that once where produced in Sweden.


Anonymous said...

"This is a unique, fun, smart and cynic look at the future - or what could have been the future"

In some ways this is how society works and have worked all the time...Watkins is making fun of the system but also the counterculture.

It´s very good film, though...has it ever been shown on SVT?

Ninja Dixon said...

Oh I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me. SVT often was involved somehow and sooner or later Swedish movies ended up there.