The Dry Land (see trailer here)
This movie looks stellar. Spellbinding, politically provocative, poignant, well-cast, and beautifully shot. In fact, it looks like one of those dramas that helps you see how life really is. The mother’s character, her look, her words, are enough by the end of the trailer to send dry tears to your eyes. This will be a must see, just on its cinematic merits alone. But in addition, it looks like one of the few movies to keenly consider the effects of war on our society.
We now have hundreds of thousands of war veterans, and we’re still talking at the political level of escalating things. (Though everyone should read Amy Goodman’s latest column, where she argues persuasively that if there’s one thing we cannot afford more of, it’s war; and that we’ll most certainly be negociating our withdrawal from Afghanistan soon or late, the question only being how much more many and human lives we’ll have put down the drain the meantime). Hundreds of thousands of veterans. The NYTimes did a piece a while ago on veterans who came home with memories that haunt them and psychologies that are full of things no one wants to see, least of all themselves. Some of them commit suicide. All of them have repressed violent tendencies; feelings of guilt for having survived while they watched friends and comarades take bullets; feeling of vengeance against a world that isn’t turning out the way they planned. Some of them hit their mothers and sisters and girlfriends during their worst lapses into postwar psychosis.
This movie is doing a great service by bringing this to public consciousness, encouraging us to think about the devastating affects of the war on our society. They say the war so far has cost at least a trillion dollars. They say also that our society will pay another trillion, at least, in at home hits, the kind of hits that stay under the skin and only come out in debilitating force after the fact, later and much later. How much does it cost us to have a half generation of males half of who have been off to far-off lands where people hack each other to death and friends die bleeding in your arms? How much does it cost us to help these bruised, sometimes broken people try to heal? And besides the social costs of the war, at the level of families and relationships, there is a more tangible cost at the level of lost jobs, VA bills, and therapies for posttraumatic syndrom. What is the cost of trauma? What is the cost of war, once our minds have left the scene of battle? To what extent does the battle remain within the mind of its soldiers? What have we condemned our children to? What kind of fathers, husbands, sons, and workers have we trained in the thick blood of desert combat? Is this what we wanted?