Monday, 23 September 2013

The War Game: way ahead of its time and still prescient

The War Game, directed by Peter Watkins and banned from British TV for twenty years might as well be called The Wow Game, so powerful is its story and construction. Made and supposed to be transmitted in 1965, it was not shown on British television until 1985 due to its distressing and dismaying content.

Using a completely convincing documentary style that includes an authorial voiceover, long steadi-cam style takes, subjects that clearly look at the diegetic camera, freeze frames, voxpops and an audible off-camera interviewer, The War Game is gripping and terrifying.

Representing the effects of nuclear war on Britain from burnt children's retinas to horrific fire storms, the construction of the aftermath of a nuclear explosion on British soil is more devastating than anything in all of Roland Emmerich's movies combined. The imagery of death; vicious, harsh and painful is accompanied by a sobering voice over that describes what is happening.

The War Game starts by stating the potential targets in Britain, suggesting that nuclear war may be inevitable with the conflicts between East and West and Communist and Capitalist forces. It deals with the potential evacuation plans imposed by the government and most devastatingly the impact of nuclear war. Beyond the initial explosion, blinding of victims, burning and destruction of people and property, it looks further into the future at those who survive.

Corpse disposal by burning bodies, psychiatric scars and starvation emerge as fall out to contend with as well as the radiation that litters the land. The voice over keeps reminding the audience that this is a docu-drama and not a real documentary by stating this is what 'could' happen. Its vision however seems scarily real with society quickly collapsing. Cops turn to killing and the masses turn to looting and murder. Disease, desperation and despair are everywhere and that persistent voice over keeps ramming the truth of the situation home with words like 'this happened in Hiroshima'.

I like to be optimistic and think that we are moving away from the possibility of this kind of madness ever happening on this planet again. However who really knows? I hope everyone sees this bleak film one day, especially those with access to the big red buttons. Its warnings are still relevant and its imagery still shocking today nearly 50 years later.

Watch the entire 50 minute film here: