Merchant of Death

“The rise and fall of Viktor Bout, arms-dealer extraordinaire, shows a darker side of globalisation”

In clearing out a year’s worth of Economists, I came across this article that had previously gone unnoticed. It details the story of real-life Lord of War Viktor Bout. A ‘Christmas Special’, it’s a bit more sensational than your average Economist report, but it nonetheless has some interesting tidbits among the dramatic re-telling of his exploits:

“In its turn Hollywood produced “Lord of War”, a fictional tale based on stories of his gun-running. (The producers reportedly used one of Mr Bout’s planes when filming.) Mr Bout thought the film was rubbish and said that he felt sorry for Nicolas Cage, who played him as an arch-villain. Another film is in the works, said to star Angelina Jolie. Other books and dramas will follow.” Continue reading

Music, Art and Violence

I think a major part of the reason why we see “beauty” or “elegance” in many war scenes is the music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5M_Ttstbgs

* link to the song at the beginning of Lord of War

I found myself bobbing my head to “For what it’s worth” at the opening scene of Lord of War. As the scene progressed and I saw the bullets being produced, I found myself rather mesmerized by the gold bullets, the light bouncing off them, and the clinking sounds they would make when moved around. The slow music brought an extra relaxing feeling that made me sink deeper into the scene and look at the bullets as even more beautiful than they already were.

Strangely though, when the bullet I had been following was fired and ended up in someone’s head, the music stopped: as if to say, “Well, enough with the music. You’ve seen my shininess. Now you must also witness my destructiveness.” I snapped out of my pseudo-fascination with the shiny bullets and instead focused on their destructiveness, and how something that was once beautiful (shiny gold/copper bullet) has created something so ugly (death). Thinking back, if it were not for the music, I’m not sure I would have felt the same way at the beginning. If all we could here was the bullets clinking against each other (and no accompanying music), I would probably have been anticipating the bullet to go through someone’s head or to be part of some greater violent scene, and I wouldn’t have been thinking that the bullet was really shiny or pretty.

I went through almost the same thing while watching the scene from Apocalpyse Now. “Ride of the Valkyries” has always been one of those tunes I associated with action, and I was happy to see it being used in the way I expected: in an invasion scene. There was something fascinating about the flying missiles and the rapid shots of gunfire in sync with the music. The tempo and the loudness at different points meshed perfectly, but here, the music made me see the violence as justified, not as beautiful. While Valkyries was playing, I felt like jumping into the scene and fighting alongside the American soldiers.

Not surprisingly though, when the music stopped and I snapped out of my heroic, pseudo adrenaline-filled Valkyries mood, I started to focus more on the violence in the film as violence towards innocent people in a village, and not as justified violence. The absence of the music made me stop and think like I actually would on a regular day when confronted with images of a village being  destroyed.

I just found it rather fascinating that the music dictate

silver bullets

silver bullets

d what my feelings were towards the violence/signifiers of violence in the movie scenes…I had never really considered that…

On a side note, I remembered the December Issue of Elle magazine had this designer’s  profile and decided to to put this up:

She designed a line of 18 karat white gold pendants in the shape of bullets. You can click on the image for additional information.