In 1961, a group of pacifist Bretons are sent to fight in France’s war against Algeria. Reluctant warriors, they are moulded into killing machines by the inspirational lieutenant Perrin and soon find their first taste of conflict. One of the group continues to rebel against the folly of the war and goes on the run with an Algerian prisoner. For all concerned, the experience will not be easily forgotten – for those that survive, that is…
With this documentary-style drama, militant director René Vautier offers a chilling testimony of the Algerian War and also makes an unequivocal attack on the French government which allowed it to happen. The film’s language is unmistakably – and justifiably – hostile towards the leaders who led their country into an avoidable armed conflict against Algeria but it is equally a powerful anti-war film in a much wider sense. Although somewhat rough and ready in both its filming and its acting, Avoir 20 ans dans les Aurès is a film which manages to convey the pointlessness, injustice, horror and stupidity of war, with a raw poetry which inspires some moments of painful reflection.
© James Travers 2003