An Interview with Janus Metz (Director)
Deep in the Darkness of War
Q: Can you describe the production of your film in Afghanistan?
JM: The film was shot on location over three-and-a-half months in 2009. I started shooting with cameraman Lars Skree, though shot alone for the last two months. We brought cameras on patrols, and many of the large firefight scenes we shot ourselves. We also recorded footage by attaching cameras to the helmets of four soldiers. When we retrieved them, we realized we had captured some tremendously powerful images, images that simulate an experience, almost as if the soldiers existed in a video game.
Q: In the latter half of the film there is a scene in which soldiers visit a wounded comrade and talk lightheartedly about killing their enemies. Despite having had experiences so close to death, had their ideas on life warped in that instant, that scene of banter and smiling faces?
JM: At first the soldiers were not made to express their emotions, whether in battle or with an injured friend. They have modern weaponry that allows them to slaughter while unaware of having killed their enemies. Yet, in close-range firefights the reality of having to kill is thrust before their eyes. In a day, their expressions completely changed. To the soldiers, war was captivating and thrilling, and they longed especially for the deaths of their enemies. When I began shooting, I thought war was a terrifying thing that makes one immediately want turn his back and flee, but its reality is much darker than I had imagined.
Q: Among the many recent fiction war films that imitate documentary, Armadillo is a documentary that uses music and rapid cutting to become almost like a fiction film.
JM: In film production, the line between documentary and fiction is very vague. Just as a fiction film can incorporate documentary technique, documentary can also borrow from fiction. Using music or shooting with multiple cameras to edit with multiple cuts, you can richly convey the reality encountered before one’s eyes.
At the end of the day, I think more than objective reality, film’s greatest power comes from what those who appear on screen have to tell us. Although audiences are conscious that they may be watching a work of fiction, I think there is weight in what filmmakers are trying to say.
Q: It seems that many of these soldiers felt excitement and thrill in the extreme situation of war and desire to return to Afghanistan. Do you, a director who experienced similar things in the same place, have any desire to return?
JM: Many filmmakers make films out of their own spirit of inquiry. They feel excitement and thrill in the midst of production, and at times step into darkness. I, however, have no thoughts of returning to Afghanistan.
I think there is a line in film, between making work that is morally correct and leaving the path of righteousness to make what you want to make. On the ground filming Armadillo, in a place where people shoot at one another, I felt I had reached that limit.
(Compiled by Umeki Soichi)
Interviewers: Umeki Soichi, Onuma Ayaka / Interpreter: Arai Yuka / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Kusunose Kaori / Video: Endo Nao / 2011-10-10