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USA, 1962 (MIFF 1963)

Director: Denis Sanders

War Hunt is about a war-lover, a man for whom war is not hell, but home. It is set in the bleak, blasted terrain of Korea, a few months prior to the cease-fire. As one of the soldiers remarks, "Its a funny kind of war", and it is presented as such, with propaganda loud speakers booming words and music across no-man's land, with desultory sniping by day and savage barrages and attacks by night. The story is told through the eyes of Loomis, who has been sent to the front line as a replacement. From the opening sequences we participate in his confusion and puzzlement, and the reactions of all the squad in this situation. One veteran stands out from the rest; a self-appointed commando, this man risks his life nightly by stealing behind the enemy lines to bring back vital information. But the real reason for his patrols is that he is a killer and his killings are ritual. . .the ceasefire comes into operation but he ignores it.

This is a powerful and disturbing film; astringent and understated. The psychopath, Endore, wedded to war - war, that is, in its basic connotation as the inflictor of death - wishes to prolong forever his murderous honeymoon. For him peace is the ultimate destroyer, whom he cannot face. John Saxon's playing of this part is splendid, with a curious withdrawn quality which makes it all the more terrifying.

The grim authenticity of the combat scenes, the music which is used with telling economy, give a haunting quality to the film. In showing the breakdown of human communication, it retains deep human sympathy. In the final sequence the Captain and his unit try, helplessly and idiotically, to tempt Endore back wilh a DSC. "Come back", says the Captain, "the war is over". Endore replies: "Which war?" There is no place for him in peace. Award: Silver Sail, Locarno Festival.

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