Bellum – The Daemon of War
In an increasingly technocratic world, war has never been so abstracted. Opening on Robert Oppenheimer’s immortal quoting of Hindu scripture following the first nuclear test bombings (those that would lead to the horrors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945), BELLUM – THE DAEMON OF WAR moves forward to tell a story of war in the present day.
A documentary in three parts, it takes us from the bored military contractors of Indian Springs, an air force base for drone pilots just outside Las Vegas; to a photojournalist shooting images in Afghanistan, pictures of trauma to be glanced at later in cozy galleries; to the Swedish engineer developing AI technology for the defense industry, a digital realm that will ultimately encroach on the biological with the most terrible consequences. BELLUM is a documentary that attempts to zoom in from those distant vantage points of silicon and lines of code to the psychological and physical front lines, all the while pondering the question of who, if not everyone, is complicit?
It is a question that will ultimately, inevitably, be asked of the filmmakers themselves. For theirs is a film of lenses: In the telescope that points towards the stars, in the viewfinder on a photographer’s camera, in the telescopic sight on an assault rifle, and in the cold and calculating eye of a drone as it flies lifeless overhead. Some are lenses that help us to better understand humanity, while others only work to take that humanity out of the equation. This is the dilemma that lies at the heart of this new documentary, a triptych of stories about the ways in which Western nations choose to cope with war, write the narratives of war, the different ways they find to profit from it, and how they film it.