Documentaries are de rigeur in 2004. Michael Moore has added
the Cannes Palme d’Or for his forthcoming Fahrenheit 9/11 to
his Oscar for Bowling for Columbine. The truth, it seems, is more
interesting than fiction. Errol Morris, then, producer and
director of The Fog of Warhas excellent timing. The subject of this interview-based documentary is Robert S.
McNamara, the infamous Secretary for Defence during the Kennedy
and Johnson administrations, and the Vietnam War. Most of the
film is a direct camera address from McNamara, but Morris also
shrewdly uses footage from press conferences, presidential
meetings and still photography to create a narrative that rarely
drags. Whilst the crux of the film hangs on McNamara’s views
on the conflict, the film is at its most gripping when he slips
into anecdote. He is an extraordinary man who has lived at the
forefront of the greatest Western crises of the twentieth
century, World Wars I and II, the Cuban Missile Crisis and
Vietnam. When prompted about Kennedy’s death and tears form
in his eyes, it is impossible not to be moved. McNamara’s views on morality are starkly relevant in this
age – he argues against American extending herself
unilaterally, words from an exalted point of view that George
Bush should pay attention to. He is bullish about his views, and
a forceful speaker for all of his 85 years, his lived-in face
offering endless interest. This is firmly a specialist interest piece of filmmaking that
assumes some knowledge and demands fascination in American
politics. Frustratingly, when asked in the epilogue about his feelings
of guilt surrounding Vietnam, McNamara suddenly becomes
secretive, although the expression on his face speaks louder than
even he could manage. His views are not always to be agreed with,
but are delivered with enough energy and vigour to make The Fog
of War utterly captivating.ARCHIVE: 5th week TT 2004