‘At War’

At War is a Frederick Wiseman movie with more theatrics.

It docufictionally charts a strike from A-Z, steeped in the interpersonal, intrapersonal, and inter-political means of communication available to union workers — dialogues of dialogue and deed, from bureaucratic negotiations amongst and across sides of the table, to public protests — and the forces they’re up against, both internally (such as the inner workings, dysfunction, and dissent within the ranks upon which such movements rely) and externally (how media coverage portrays — and, inevitably, distorts — them).

The story’s told from the proletariat’s points-of-view (the plural is key to understanding the conflicts that ultimately upend their collective, yet differentiated goals); the camera remains amidst the players, with plenty of over-the-shoulder shots where their blurry, out-of-focus profiles obscure parts of the frame’s foreground. We’re in the action, a handheld, guerrilla aesthetic whose war-like look conveys the violent nature of class warfare. This filmmaking style kinetically grounds us in the chaotic present, and the profits-based betrayal that instigates the battle can be interpreted as a symbol for the erosion of the social contract between classes that’s currently riling much of the world.

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