If you were to ask me what the greatest film of all time was I would probably stop to reflect for a moment wondering what the right answer was, y'know, the smart answer, the surprising answer, the answer you wanted me to give you and then I'd probably just think "fuck it!" and say The Hill.
I had a little go at The Hill here and I'm returning to it again partly as a consequence of reflecting on the recent shifts in the UK (in fact the three Connery-Lumet movies with which I am unhealthily obsessed, The Hill, The Anderson Tapes and The Offence all seem highly relevant at the moment) and the visibility of the deeply embedded and interlinked structures of power, privilege and authority that the rapidly receded tide of Old Skool neo-liberalism has laid bare. Just to clarify, what I mean is that while aggressively neo-liberal practices continue there is no comforting patina of progressive ideology anymore, this fantasy element, strong under both Thatcher and Blair has been whisked away: for the first time in a long time the sense of horror and dread is not, as it was during the Blair years, one of feeling smothered or suffocated, of feeling overwhelmed by ideology but rather a distressing lack of fantasy, the exposing of the thing itself, the machinery of Late Capitalism going nakedly about its business. In this sense the cumulative affect of this most recent stage is one of obscenity and insult whereas before it was weariness and fatigue, if before you were patronisingly smothered, now you are mockingly over-exposed.
This relates to The Hill in a number of ways and I may have to go at it from number of angles in order to get at what it says fully. Broadly, and veering off slightly I also feel that the critical strategies that were useful pre-2008 feel less urgent now, in that what needed to be "unmasked" during the previous decades is now quite plainly and unrepentantly present.
I say contemporary but really the hill is also primal, pyramidal, the method through which man dominates nature, disciplines the vast, impersonal expanse of the desert by imprinting the symbol of his Will upon it and also the means by which the "broken" soldiers are broken down further and then rebuilt. In a sense the return of and the return to the Hill is an extension of Pound's maxim that Literature is "news which stays news". The progressivist fantasies melt away, the ruling order is challenged and power asserts itself, hard-power, not the cultural soft-power of "repressive tolerance" or many of the other buzzwords of last decades' Leftist critique, along with the reality of social antagonisms presumed to have been relegated to the dustbin of history.
It's useful then to return to director whose primary focus was on power and the institution.
I'm going to write several short posts and the first one is about the end of the film so it definitely CONTAINS SPOILERS.