Monday, June 27, 2016
Neither Heaven Nor Earth
Neither Heaven Nor Earth is screening tomorrow at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York City.
Set among an encampment of French soldiers stationed atop a couple of barren hilltops in Afghanistan in 2014, Neither Heaven Nor Earth injects strains of the supernatural into a realistic war story to highlight the eerie disorientation of modern warfare. As members of the troop begin to disappear, the soldiers lose their emotional footing, their relationship with the civilians in a nearby village transitioning from tense to toxic. The eerie green light that illuminates parts of the soldiers’ faces as they patrol at night underscores the dehumanizing effects of technology, as do the ghostly white silhouettes they see through their infrared scopes. Meanwhile, the nervous sheep the villagers tie to stakes in the dangerous open land create a growing sense of dread, their fate becoming mysteriously entangled with that of the missing soldiers.
As the men grow more unnerved and their sense of military protocol dissolves, the film’s initially leisurely pace grows jittery too, yielding powerfully unsettling scenes like a close-up of a soldier dancing to electronic music as if he is being electrocuted, the eyes tattooed onto his back staring at the camera as he twitches and lunges convulsively. Jérémie Renier is tough but touching as the troop’s captain, a natural leader whose confident competence slowly unravels as his faith in the rational world and the reliability of his own perceptions are upended.