Occasionally I’m tempted to stop watching war movies. After all, it’s hardly ever cheerful. But there is a huge difference between “not cheerful” and “utterly depressing”. And while combat movie’s are rarely cheerful, they are often not utterly depressing. On the other hand movies focussing on the way common people, and especially children, are affected by war, are often extremely depressing. Among all these depressing movies on the fate of the civilians the Iraqi-Iranian movie Turtles Can Fly, might be the saddest I’ve ever seen. While it’s an excellent film, it’s almost unbearably bleak.
The film starts with a small girl committing suicide. She jumps from a cliff. The story then rewinds and we get to know why she did it.
Somewhere near the Turkish border, just before the war in Iraq breaks out, a group of people live in some houses close to a refugee camp. The elders of the village hire a young boy to buy and install a satellite dish. They want to know if war is coming. The boy is funny, entrepreneurial, and clearly relishes being the only one who knows something about technology and a few English words. He’s maybe 12 or 14 years old (sorry I’m bad at judging the age of children) and runs many small businesses. One of them consists in having other children collect mines which he then sells on the local markets. The whole area is a huge minefield and collecting them is vital because as long as they are on the fields, the farmers cannot work.
Many of these children who collect mines are missing limbs from the one or the other unlucky encounter. The film maker used only children with real deformities and missing limbs which adds authenticity and makes watching it even more harrowing.
“Satellite”, as they call the young boy, falls in love with one of the refugee girls. A very pretty girl who is there without parents but with her older brother who has lost both arms and a small child who has a problem with his eyes. She is the girl who will commit suicide and to learn her story was almost too much.
While there are some funny scenes dedicated to “Satellite” and his business, I’ve rarely seen such a bleak movie. The poverty of these people is extreme. They live in the cold and the rain, there are hardly any trees or buildings, just some huts and tents and a lot of mud. Their situation has a lot to do with former wars. They are surrounded by danger and helpless. Without a proper system of information they are at the mercy of everyone. They never know what hits them or why.
I wasn’t enjoying watching Turtles Can Fly but I was glad I did. This movie is bleak, depressing and heartbreaking but at the same time, it’s very good. The young actors are astonishing, the message is eloquently anti-war.
Here’s the trailer
And the full movie
Are you sure it’s anti-war? Just kidding. Why do you do this to yourself? I don’t want you to stop reviewing so I recommend you stay away from movies like this. Find some feel good war movies to watch.
I was wondering as well, why I did this to myself. I felt almost sick afterwards although you don’t really see much, it’s implied. Ah – not true though. The story of the girl is soo tragic. It’s a good move, belive it or not.
And honest. Not every “feel-good” war movie is that honest. It’s also not blaming any side, just the war itself.
I’ll take your word for it. I do not think I will be watching it any time soon. I’ll stick with “Hope and Glory” and “Empire of the Sun”.
I have still not seen Empire of the Sun but I love Hope and Glory. Another time, another war… another society. The wars in the Middle East are so awful for the civilians because they have no means to rebuild… They live amongs ruins for decades.
How does it compare to “Innocent Voices” (which I still have not seen)?
I loved Innocent Voices, it’s one of my very favourite movies. I can really not say I loved this. Appreciate, yes but it’s too bleak. I know it’s bad to say that as some children will go through that … But I still liked Innocent Voices much better.
I saw this Caroline and had about the same reaction.
It’s so bleak.
Yes, and yet it still feels necessary to watch it.
I agree. I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t feel like that. I think it’s one of the best anti-war statements.
Just dropped in to suggest a documentary called Hitler’s Children. It consists of interviews with relatives (sons, daughters, grandson etc) of various high ranking Nazi officials including Himmler.
Thanks a lot, that sounds very interesting.
It’s different and shouldn’t depress you too much. (unlike the above)