War reflects on human behaviour during and after the extreme conditions of war and questions the effects of war on identity and morality. Filmed in different formats (DV, 35mm and a thermal camera), the film also mixes different film genres, e.g., interviews, archive material and fiction. The witnesses include a Dutch UN corporal who experienced the ethnic cleansing in ex-Yugoslavia, Cveja Jovanovic, a Yugoslav prisoner of war who survived the German concentration camps in Norway, the architect and writer Bogdan Bogdanovic and Norwegian criminologist Niels Christie.
The film is structured in three parts using a narrator reading poems from WWI as a backdrop for the story. Filmed through reflecting glass, the film adopts an aesthetic style that gives every picture a double image revealing the scenes and activities around the interviewed person. The photographer Anthony Dod Mantle has worked on several of Loftager’s films.
Jens Loftager was born in 1954. He studied philosophy and film and graduated form the National Film School of Denmark in 1989. He has directed a number of shorts, documentaries and television series.
Anette Olsen: Please describe your filming technique in this film.
Jens Loftager: By placing a glass plate in front of the lens and then angling it, the background is projected on the face of the person you are filming. It’s very difficult to handle.
AO: Why did you choose this aesthetic style?
JL: It’s a long story, but a very important story, too. Because regardless of whether a film is called War or Words, it’s still a film, and I had no intention of bringing forward a gilt-edged message, because that’s not my job. My job is to give a credible and hopefully true picture of what war involves. And this demands precision in the artistic devices you use. After all, the language I speak is visual, and I’m not trying to say something is terrible, or that these are the bad guys and those are the heroes, even though you can find them in the film. This distinction is incredibly important to me. To me the criterion of authenticity is not decisive, quite on the opposite. I try to show from the beginning that I mix the genres in my own sweet way because I don’t believe the Truth is just out there waiting to be depicted truthfully. Truth has to be created and one way to do it is to be precise in one’s use of cinematic devices.