Voir du Pays (The Stopover)

Tough movie directed by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin. Aurore et Marine are two soldiers who are returning home after fighting 6 months in Afghanistan. Before flying back to France the commanders of the battalion take the whole group to a five-star hotel in Cyprus, in order to relax and forget what they have seen and experienced in combat. Several group sessions with a psychiatrist will be also part of the of the 3-days’ agenda. During those sessions the military doctors encourage soldiers to talk in front of the entire group about their experiences. They use virtual reality on a big screen to mimic the movements and the setting described by the soldiers who wear VR spectacles. The objective of these sessions is to decompress in order to be able to go back home in a healthy state of mind, leaving their traumatic experiences behind. During the entire film a recurrent question turns to our minds, how could they possibly leave those traumatic experiences behind after having seen and done what they have seen and done?

Soon the tension among the members of the group will increase at a considerable tempo, the spectator become gradually unease on her seat. Several episodes of aggressiveness take place among the group and against some tourists at the hotel. The level of anxiety and nervousness grows and many soldiers have difficulties to control it. Ordinary happenings increase their stress, for example, any normal noise (a glass accidentally smashing on the floor, a barman filling a bowl with ice cubes) will greatly exasperate the soldiers, revealing the deteriorated state of their minds

One of the most significant scenes is when Aurore describes in front of the group, with VR images behind her, the moment when their group got strafed. She sees colleagues dying, a person looses one of her feet, there is blood everywhere, she gets herself shot on the leg, she falls on the snow, everything is white, she believes she is going to die. At that precise moment one single thought comes to her mind, what the fuck I am doing in Afghanistan? The pointlessness of war is brutally displayed on that single sentence.

The film also touches the subject of women in the army, the impossibility of being regarded as equal, the increasing sexual tension, the impotence of being used as objects of relief of their male colleagues’ frustrations.

War destroys lives, for those who will survive will never be the same.

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