Games,’ an independent film by Italian director Cosimo Alema, tells the
story of a group of young men and women on a weekend trip to the
countryside. Right from the start, you get a sense of the different
personalities within the group: There are the sisters with lingering
‘issues,’ smouldering romances and rivalries.
is to find a nice, quiet backwater to engage in a friendly bout of
airsoft, in which the combatants use life-like rifles loaded with
do the group know that the woods they have chosen are already occupied
by a group of rather intense ex-soldiers, who have more deadly ways to
blow off steam. They’re armed with real weapons, with which they like to
hunt captured dogs. But the four-legged prey is getting boring, and,
sensing an opportunity to act out their secret desires, they decide to
hunt and kill the ‘pretend soldiers’ who have fallen into their lap.
A lot of
different techniques have been used in ‘War Games,’ all of which are
intended to cause suspense and fear in the audience. Some of them are
familiar, and used with a heavy hand, such as the technique of putting
foliage or grass between the camera and the characters to make it look
as though they’re being watched. Others are more subtle, and far more
affecting: In one scene a character takes a break, after being
eliminated from the game of Airsoft. In the background we hear a
high-pitched noise, but it’s impossible to tell whether it’s a whistle
or a scream.
is set out in the woods, with some scenes taking place along a gravel
track or in a bunker or in some old ruins. There’s nothing all that
visually interesting about the setting. Adding to the blandness, the
colour has been de-saturated to the point that everything is tinged with
soundtrack is diverse and often surprising. The more emotional moments
are accompanied by strings and piano with mellow vocals. But later on,
when the action is intense, we are subjected to an instrumental bedlam
of human or animal screams, all submerged under a thick layer of
distortion. This movie can be very hard on the ears, especially when it
moves from a tranquil conversation scene to the point of view of one of
the bad guys- the ragged, stilted sound of his breathing will almost
certainly make you want to cover your ears.
protagonists are ‘just’ developed enough for us to care about them and
to feel fear for them. The baddies are utterly irredeemable and not all
that interesting. Even though we get to know a bit about them through
scenes of dialogue, we never get a sense of what makes them tick, or
find out exactly what their malfunction is.
experience, War Games is shattering. It seems to know exactly what your
expectations are, what your hopes are, and ruthlessly crushes them.
doesn’t do anything spectacular, but nor does it fail in any given area.
The story it tells us is convincing and harrowing, if not particularly