Review of Man at War (2012)

Moving picture, 70 minutes

Seen in 2013.

Hardcore players of the remarkably long-lived WW2 flight simulator IL-2 Sturmovik (2001), from Russian company 1C. They’re spread out in what Sheri Linden of the LA Times called “an international network of unassuming man caves”, in the USA, Germany, Russia and Poland.

Made for television by HBO Poland. I find it brilliantly penetrating. The main attraction here is the relationship between these men and history. It’s at once shallow and deep: They’re recreating comparatively meaningless details in an uncharacteristically dramatic episode from the 20th century, trying to boost their masculinity by association. The Warhammer fan is particularly blind to this. The tenuous links that do exist, such as Bendwick’s Jew-killing Sonderbefehl grandfather, imply they are also immersing themselves for reasons bordering on the religious: an emotional dream quest deeper than an MMORPG or Second Life, merely disguised as a simulation. It rises to the level of an excellent, classically structured meditation on the state of computer use. Excellent treatment of surrounding families, and even pets. It’s unfortunate that the makers combined games for purported in-game footage; I wonder how all the distributed shooting and recreation was actually done.

References here: The paradox of wargame design.

moving picture non-fiction