Severe Clear: A Very Short Review

In common with practically the entire American movie-going audience, I don’t favor films about the Iraq war.  I also have difficulty with the type of movie filmed with hand-held video cameras — the motion makes me carsick.  Nevertheless, there I was last week at a showing of Severe Clear.

I blame my son, who really wanted to see it — he will be an Army officer next year.  This film originates from footage taken in 2003 by 1st LT Mike Scotti, a young Marine who participates in the invasion of Iraq.  He came back with over sixty hours of footage, which a professional director took charge of and edited into this film.

What you get is a higly intense and utterly unromaticized view of modern war.  All the frightfulness and the boredom and violence of combat is right in your face.  The soldiers are continually profane, incredibly enduring, and scandalously young.  The saddest thing, besides the lavish loss of life, is the way Scotti’s idealism and hope gradually erodes into cynicism.  The only narration other than his words is various scalding clips from news reports and political speeches.  Colin Powell’s “we have proof of WMDs” is here, the words that have forever scotched any future public career for him.  And when Dick Cheney is heard, I had to paraphrase Mary McCarthy: Every word was a lie and proven to be a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’

This film is not going to be at your local multiplex — no distributor signed on in spite of glowing reviews and good ratings.  The creators are touring around the country and holding screenings.  A good movie for writers, so that you can see what war is really like, and hear how real soldiers talk.

A short story has just been added to my Bookshelf:

Or read an entire novel!



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Severe Clear: A Very Short Review — 3 Comments

  1. He was completely sucked into the technical aspects. He can name every gun that was used, spot where and when the movie events fit into the political and military time line of the entire war, point out how the digital design of the camo has now been updated, note that the helmets are now one generation old. (It was actually even more fun to go with him to see THE HURT LOCKER, which was made using a variety of older Army equipment, all of which he spotted instantly.) These are his peers on the screen. He is 21, and his belief in his own immortality is complete and total.

  2. I got so involved in the military stuff, I forgot to say why this movie is relevant for writers. What it shows you (in addition to a microscope view of warrior culture), is the difference between -stuff- and -story-. The directors had a vast load of stuff, the sixty hours of raw footage. They did their best to extract a story out of it. They were not entirely successful; possibly it could not be done without adding new stuff — i.e., fiction. Possibly it could not be done now, so soon. We have not yet seen the great 9-11 novel or movie, and that’s been nearly ten years. It may just take time.