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Ballast and The General of the Dead Army

Posted in Book, film with tags , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

The General of the Dead Army rightfully earned Ismail Kadare the Booker Prize. It is a stark investigation into loss and lingering sanity, which takes the form of an anti-hero’s quest, while borrowing heavily from the dystopia genre. The protagonist is an Italian General who wanders the emotionally barren landscape of Albania in search of the bodies of fallen Italian soldiers from World War II. His journey into darkness, whether intentionally or coincidentally, references such magnificently tragic journey’s as those that comprised 1884, the Time Machine, C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy and naturally, Heart of Darkness.

After a significant amount of procrastination, I managed to write my review of A General of the Dead Army for Bookslut. That is the first paragraph and the rest will soon be available on their sight. As a B S exclusive though, I wanted to talk about this book and the film Ballast together. I interviewed the film’s director, Lance Hammer, last week and that will soon see the light of print, I promise. Meanwhile- let’s talk Tragedy.

Hammer used non actors, who were local to the two towns in the Mississippi Delta where he shot the film. After 10 years of research, he decided to make a film that as he told me, “wasn’t so much about race, but about universal human suffering.” He chose African Americans to play the main roles, and encouraged them to use their own distinct vernacular. Rather than hand them a script, he gave them a situation and encouraged them to improvise language around that particular scenario. What remains of this method, in the edited movie is a steely, classical, cinematic gem. Like The General of the Dead Army, Ballast is a tragic play of emotions, which seems to take place in real time. It is similarly stark, subtle and quietly passionate.