|Index||5 reviews in total|
In the 70's, right in the boundaries between Chile and Argentina, war
is about to erupt. A grudge between these two countries for a couple of
islands (that today belong to Chile) is growing up, and a fight between
the countries seems unavoidable. A group of soldiers is sent to the
pampas, in the limits of the frontier, to watch for any hostile
It is then when we're introduced to the members of that group. Each one has his own beliefs, and soon we learn that almost none of them has seen combat in their entire life - they're just conscripts. Innocence all over their faces, suddenly they got stuck in the middle of nowhere facing the enemy. That's when the movie really starts.
Although character development is somewhat scarce in some of the cast, Nicolás Saavedra,Felipe Braun and Miguel Dedovich gave an outstanding performance, giving you the feel of common-like persons in a situation where one has to choose between loyalty to your country or your beliefs. It's not a tale of war, but a story representing the feelings of those people thrown in a conflict they barely are aware of. Despite the criticism made to warfare, Alex Bowen, the director, was able to find the cooperation of the Army Forces in Chile, a major achievement considering the history of that nation. Shown at the Montreal Festival in September 25th, Bowen showed surprise at the reaction of the public at some scenes, pointing that the humor scenes where not mean to be that funny, he thought it will be too obscure for the audience to catch them.
Either way, the film still has some flaws. Some of the characters remain too simplistic to even being able to keep in touch with them. Although there's no "happy ending" entirely, people used to war movies like "Saving Private Ryan", "Platoon" and else will find this one a little bloodless and with so little action. Pherhaps some will miss the true intent of showing a more human story, loosely based on real facts, and a subtle criticism to what war is, after all.
"Mi Mejor Enemigo" stands as a enjoyable-afternoon-movie for those who want to watch an intelligent, worth-watching film.
I liked this movie, because it shows the human behavior in a difficult situation (almost a war) between two nations that has many things in common. I recommend it to anyone, specially to Argentine and Chilean people. If you are older than 35 years you may remember the situation, if you aren't: there were a problem between Argentina and Chile because of some islands at the south of the continent, near Tierra del Fuiego. The two countries started to reinforce their army, and there was almost a war because of "The Beagle Channel". This is the story of two squads, one Chilean and the other one Argentinean, and what happened between them when they were at the south waiting for the war to begin.
Mi Mejor Enemigo (2005)
Set way in the south of Chile (which goes very far south) about a confrontation between Argentina and Chile (talk about a long border to worry about), this group of Chilean soldiers stumbles and bumbles along in the open barren landscape, discovering themselves. One blurb calls it a comedy, which it isn't really, not for American sensibilities, but it is often very funny, and almost always easy going. But it isn't a "war movie" either. There's almost no "action" in war terms. In fact, the real action is the figures against the grassy openness of the land, the pampas, helping prove at least once that war is often silly at best. Especially over a couple of islands.
I'm not really sure most viewers will get fully into this movie, which is too bad. It's slow, or subtle, or both. The slow part is necessary, though the unspectacular filming style and the decision to extend many short scenes longer than might be necessary make it a little sleepy. The subtle part is notable, and there are some convincing, low key performances. And no heroes, not in the usual sense. And there are a lot of reasonable attempts to avoid starting a real war, including some funny comparable scenes from the Argentine side, and some developments you'll have to wait and see. Including a perro (a dog) that makes trips back and forth between the two sides. Not that any of them, including the dog, has any idea where the border actually is.
It's charming, and has a charming innocence to it, which makes it worth something right there. And it is filled with such soft-spoken humor it slowly sucks you in. Even the charged ending is filled with tenderness, and a humility which makes me wish these were my friends. If there is something to carry forward here, it is the humanity steeped into every scene. We don't quite get to know the individuals or their characters deeply, but we come to empathize with them anyway.
A nice surprise, if you can remove distractions and get yourself absorbed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At the very south, a squad of 5 Chilean soldiers and its commanding
officer are sent to the border with Argentina sometime in 1978 in the
brink of a war between both countries over 3 desperately lonesome
islands nobody until then used to care about. They have to explore the
area and report "every suspicious activity". But while they get there,
a soldier breaks the compass, they get hopelessly lost and are forced
to dig a trench in the middle of nowhere, ignoring if that spot is in
fact still homeland or enemy's territory. When they think nothing worse
could happen, suddenly a squad of 6 Argentine dig another trench a
couple of meters to the East and point their arms at them. There's no
water around to be found, and the only order they get through their
vanishing radio is to sit and wait. Problem is, nobody knows if the war
will start or when and they've only got around 20 bullets each to
defend the country...
This film has a lot of subtleties for those who can see them. It is not only a universal story about war and peace, but a description of a difficult vicinity. Through this very real approach to being friend or foe, drawing the frontier "two steps to the left" or "two small steps to the right", Chilean and Argentine have been neighbors for the best part of 500 years, feeling very much part of the same family and at the same time quite different people.
One look says it all: it is at times difficult to recognize each countries uniform. Both are standard military green and have the same helmets, alas if one part uses goggles on them. But when it comes to behavior, Chilean are stiffer and disciplined, while Argentine are more relaxed and less hierarchical.
The film draws most of its conclusions from a small patch of land, divided by a very fuzzy line that both squads have drawn one day by common accord to avoid useless quarrel. In fact, nobody knows where the limit really runs. It is an abstraction. Both groups arrive at the scene willing to defend this idea to death, and end up having to wait for the order to do it. Meanwhile reality sets in and catches them up: once, it's the Chilean who need penicillin for a wounded soldier, another time it's the Argentinians who wish to eat meat from a calf given away by a shepherd to the Chilean. Both squads end up sitting on the border roasting it together, taking pictures of one another, telling stories, and playing (soccer) football. In the end, pride and honor take a different, much more approachable,dimension. When war fails to set in, Chilean and Argentine become once again that what they are: just neighbors, very similar people. In fact, as one of the soldiers puts it, "some families cross the border every day for work's sake, and they do it 'just like that'".
The film empathizes once and again the vastness of the pampas and the impossibility of drawing a "border" there. This complete nothingness is underlined by the tiny number of soldiers of each squad: 6 on each side. These proportions cannot but entirely dwarf the heroic intentions of "defending the motherland" at all costs, etc. The reason for the possible war were as ridicule as the situation itself: 3 lonesome islands at the end of the world, nobody's concern until two countries were willing to kill and destroy for it. But that's exactly what Argentinians and Chilean have been doing for centuries: fight for land. Sometimes over 1 000 000 km in Patagonia, sometimes about 3 tiny islands. But when these matters are settled, both countries unite very easily. This jumping from cold to hot mood in a matter of minutes portraits very truly the Latin character: getting exited about small things and arguing to death and then falling into each other's arms laughing about the silliness of it all.
The picture is not about archetypes of peace and war, it doesn't reach Olympic heights or neck breaking depths, but its insights are fresh because it shows the same eternal questions viewed by two peoples that commonly don't show up in our cinemas every day. It is an honest, well crafted movie, and surely entertains while making you think.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A border dispute between two South American nations, Chile and
Argentina, takes center stage in this Chilean film that takes us back
to 1978 when the two countries mounted tensions over the control of
islands in the Beagle channel, a stretch of water at the edge of Tierra
Del Fuego. The channel is an important waterway between the Pacific and
the Atlantic Oceans. Being a natural passage, Argentina challenged
Chile for having been given control of the strategic site.
Argentina was ruled by a military junta, who later got the country involved in the Falkland Island war of the early 1980s with England. Chile was under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Argentina thought its neighbor supported England in their claim over the Falklands and took offense and thus the tensions over the dominance in that part of the Southern Hemisphere.
We are taken to the remote area of Punta Arenas in Chile where the Chilean army was preparing to go to battle with the enemy. A small patrol led by Sgt. Osvaldo Ferrer and five soldiers were to get closer to the border with the neighboring country to keep an eye of what the other side was preparing to do.
The desolate area of the region added in getting the Chilean patrol lose their way since they could not find the fence that marked the border. Losing a valuable compass made the situation more desperate. Hungry and without water, the group had to make do with whatever they had in order to survive. Complicating the situation, one of the soldiers, who was an expert in trapping rabbits, gets his leg sliced by the knife he carried, almost making him lose his leg.
As the Chileans prepare trenches, they discover a rival group of six Argentine soldiers nearby. One thing leads to another and the men find common ground in coming to the help of the injured man, using the enemy's medicine to stabilize him. Suddenly a makeshift soccer ball is made out of their provisions and the men engage in friendly games with each other. Unfortunately, the Chileans were at a disadvantage as the conflict is about to start. The Argentine sergeant, Ocampo, wants the men to run, but they refuse. Instead the men write letters to their families asking Ocampo to mail them after the war ends. Fortunately, the war was avoided as clear heads prevailed.
Alex Bowen, the director and co-writer of this film, reenacts those tense days of the not too distant past in which folly almost took over common sense. The military rulers of Argentine knew they had a clear edge over their neighbors; they felt they could win because they were better positioned to beat the enemy. Mr. Bowen concentrates on a small part of the two sides as they come close to one another. It is an anti war film that reminded this viewer of Christian Carion's "Joyeux Noel" and others that have dealt with the same theme. The ensemble cast does a fine job in conveying those days that brought the two friendly countries to war.
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