In the film the Battle of Algiers (1997) the backdrop or setting is the ancient city with its narrow winding passageways, tunnels, stairways, and arches. The old city is complex, full of danger and hiding places, a metaphor for the war itself and the participants who must survive. The issue is to whom the country should belong and who should have power, the French colonialist invaders or the indigenous people. It is about the indigenous people gaining their rights and benefiting from the country's resources. It is not about the physical landscape. The social community that has set up a Cause is a group of resistance fighters -- guerillas or terrorists, in contemporary terms.
According to Larsen (2004) Plato taught that war was a way to assert cultural identity, and the rules of war develop from this sense of how the warriors see themselves collectively: "Cultural identity defines the war, its behavior, and its goal" (p. 472). During Plato's time war was seen as a positive thing: "From antiquity until the nineteenth century war is the true confirmation of identity" (p. 475). We have not entirely given up this view -- at least the military hasn't. Advertising on TV, for example, still promotes the idea that military service can make a man out of a boy. But our values and beliefs about war have changed a great deal. Media has played a strong role in changing and transforming human values regarding war: "...from the nineteenth century onwards this martial attitude has been reversed or at least contested" (p. 475).
Ambiguity about war developed in literature during the Renaissance, when a shift in human consciousness manifested itself in the invention of linear perspective (in art) that allowed human beings to individually control spatial experience and location. Spatial manipulation became an "interpretive norm for human identity" (p. 480), and the landscape became a focal point for the ambiguity. If humans establish their identities through war, they cannot get it through landscape because war destroys the landscape. If location confers identity, that identity cannot be confirmed during war "because it is a self-defeating activity" (p. 480).
We are left with a paradox. On one hand, landscape seems to confer identity. But "the landscape of war is always...
War as a quest for identity has nowhere to place that identity, no landscape proper, only a tactical landscape that belongs to others..." (p. 477). Moreover, soldiers in the field invariably invoke "concrete scenes and details from the daily life of the place left behind. This is the only landscape that confirms and supports the identity of people during war" (p. 477), the landscape that lies in the warrior's memory of home.
Larsen (2004) provides a typology of four landscapes or spaces related to war and cultural identity. These four experiences of space in modern culture "shape our arguments around the nature of war as dealing with belonging and identity" (p. 481): the national landscape, the guerilla landscape, the perceived landscape, and the aesthetic landscape. The national landscape is the basis of the entire structure.
In the national landscape, anybody who lives anywhere else is fundamentally different and "incurably alien" (p. 482). The people's natural identity comes from having been born in this place. On one hand it is a peaceful home. On the other, "it is a sign of the foreignness and artificiality of others and thus legitimizes war. This concept of national space is similar to Loraux's (2002) description of the ancient Athenians' concept of the city. They saw two aspects of the city, inside and outside. Inside is civilization and peaceful pursuits such as marriage, business, and art. Outside the city is where war is waged, and "only the city that enjoys internal peace can wage war outside, and that is both its duty and its fate" (p. 23). On one hand it is a peaceful home seen from the distance, as the city of Algiers is shown in the location establishing shot for the Battle of Algiers before the story starts. The Algerians are the people who are born there and in their "right place."
History, however, reveals a resistance had formed long before the war against French colonial occupation
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