Monday, February 3, 2014

436. La Battaglia Di Algeri

La Battaglia Di Algeri
The Battle of Algiers
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo

I sat in front of the computer for a ridiculously long time before I wrote this review.  On the one hand, this isn't a really enjoyable film (nor should it be, considering the subject matter) and I am assuming that most people (including myself) watch a film to be entertained.  On the other hand, I would definitely agree that is a must see movie.

In short, this film covers the events that happened during the war for Algerian independence from 1954 to 1957.  The story centers on the character Ali la Pointe, but honestly, I kept forgetting about him with everything else that was going on.  Terrorist attacks and torture are shown and there were quite a few times that I wanted to turn off the computer and never turn it on again.  Of course, it is nothing next to some of the shit The Book has put me through but it is still really disturbing.

I don't think we ever covered Algerian independence specifically in high school, but we learned enough about African colonization to know that it was a giant shit show, as demonstrated with this film.

Now, if the goal of the filmmakers was to educate us about the atrocities that were committed by both sides of this conflict, they did a fantastic job.  If their goal was to make a thrilling and entertaining movie...well, not so much.  Still, a must watch.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:


Banned in France until 1974 and only released in a cut form.

French numbers report that there may have been up to one million loyalists in Algeria at that time.  They are not portrayed in the film.


  1. The independence struggle for Algeria was one of the bloodiest and hardest fought amoungst many such tragic events of those decolonisation years.
    France had always regarded her colonies as part of France, not just foreign possession, so was more determined than most to hang on in there.. plus there were very large numbers of (ethnically) French people living there who feared independance. You mention seeing figures of around 1,000,000 .. that could well be true.
    Certainly the 'loss' of Algeria affected the ordinary French people more badly than probably any of the colonial powers during the post war 'wind of change'. (See 'Day of the Jackal' for just how much of a betrayal some saw De Gaul's eventual withdrawal.
    A very powerful film.. very important, and with still so much to say..
    But it is still not an easy evening, and certainly nothing like entertainment.

    1. Yes that is why I hesitated recommending it since I don't know if my readers want to find new favorites or experience films like these. I definitely think it is a must see though.

  2. Amanda, I like this review because it gives an honest portrayal of the movie for people who are following the book and/or your blog. If they want to find out more, they can watch it having been warned about the viewing difficulty. However, if they tend to get upset about seeing the violence, they know not to watch it. Good review.

  3. I am in line with Ray on this. The war in Algeria was more complicated than probably any other independece war because the popuplation was as divided as it was. Algeria was also far more developed than most of Africa and it is difficult not to see the war as a culture clash, a fork on where to go: modernity and the west or traditionalist and the orient. Throw in terrorist methods and heavy handed counter insurgent methods and things gets very ugly.
    This movie is remarkable because despite it being ordered as a celebration of Algerian independence it actually show how the Algerians themselves were shooting themselves in their feet, both on short term and long term. I do not think the French ever forgave them this.

    1. Yes I wish American schools were more comprehensive with world history, and didn't just teach the French Revolution 17 times.

  4. "I am assuming that most people (including myself) watch a film to be entertained"
    Hmmmm... I want to be surprised, cheered, saddened, challenged, shocked, tickled, enlightened, educated, provoked, enraged, enraptured, scared, tensed, calmed and engaged. I want to be made to feel optimistic, pessimistic, in love and to be forced to fight the temptation to hate. I want to have my eyes opened to new possibilities, ideas, the peaks of human potential and the depths of the dark of human's souls. I want to discover ways of filmmaking I didn't realise existed and learn more about how cinema has evolved through history. If I'm really lucky, I might watch something that undermines my previous assumptions about how I see myself or the world around me. And, yeah, kicking back to some good, old entertainment along the way certainly doesn't hurt.

    "I don't know if my readers want to find new favorites or experience films like these"
    Don't worry about your readers, Amanda. It's your blog, write it your way. That's why we like it.

    I take a keen interest in history but knew almost nothing about the war in Algeria before recent European films on The List kept mentioning it. Interesting how occupying forces sometimes really convince themselves that what the locals really want is for them to stay and keep occupying them.

    I always worry about recommending historical films because then I discover that they were misrepresentative in some way and I feel gullible for having believed them. This probably sided with the rebels, despite showing their atrocities. But, by modern ethical values at least, France was in the wrong. I'll stick my neck out and say this was great. Five of my stars.