Film for installation and cinematic presentation

HONORABLE MENTION, San Francisco Dance Film Festival 2012


"A tool for heightened awakening, a radical challenge to our prejudices regarding our understanding of conflict, its sacrifices and its resolutions...
A sublime work revealing a shocking tenderness"
William Fowler, curator of artist moving image at the British Film Institute
for Eikon Photography and Media Art Magazine, November 2010

"Rarely have horror and beauty been so intertwined... cut to the bone"
Rita Felciano,, March 2012

Body of War reflects on the militirisation of the human being. Set in the geography of the Normandy Landings and punctuated by testimonies of retired and serving soldiers, a mise-en-scène of visceral hand-to-hand combat is gradually deconstructed – inviting the viewer to engage in the relationship between human intimacy and the brutality of war.



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A hectic fight is gradually dissected into slower and slower repetitions, revealing the context of training as a technical rehearsal for killing. From the visceral to the reflective, Body of War follows military training in reverse, constantly juxtaposing the fight (the organised collective) with the human being (the individual), prompting questions regarding the instrumentalisation of a person in the interest of a government. Voice interviews of retired and serving soldiers who have experienced recent wars (Iraq, Bosnia) offer personal testimonies.

At a time when military death is delivered at a distance and machines provide the interface between enemies, Body of War returns to groundtroop skills training in the hand to hand combat form Krav Magà. The gestures of closeness and emotion revealed by fighting at reduced speed uncannily remind of iconographic images such as the Pietà: the Virgin Mary holding the dead Christ. In order to bring out this connection the scene is offset to Arvo Pärt's Kanon Pokajanen (Canon of Repentance, 1997), a dissonant choral composition of sacred music.

Body of War is set in Normandy, namely, the beaches of Néville Sur Mer and the only landing strip left in the region, Cherbourg Airport –sites architecturally haunted by disused bunkers, casemates built in 1943 by the Germans as part of the Atlantik Wall. An uncomfortable juxtaposition emerges between the windy, desolate sand dunes engulfing the modern ruins of large concrete blocks and the fiercely physical, loyal bodies of the soldiers in training.

If wars are commonly fought over land, this film invites a double feeling of pre and post territory – of rehearsal for and residue following a relentless, sacrificial conflict. In this way Body of War uses the Landing geography not as direct historical reference, but as archetypal post-war site, questioning our willingness to forget history and re-ignite conflict.


This piece is part of The Intimacy of Violence exhibition, a solo show which considers the nature of military training in a series of interrelated moving image works and still images. Positioning Body of War as the central work, in a consciously reiterative way the surrounding pieces play on the military theme of repetition, by quoting the main film to expose further questions on the psychology and representation of conflict and its defence systems.

The exhibition premiered at Galeria Senda and Arts Santa Monica in Barcelona on May the 10th and ran until 12th June 2011. See also The Speed of Violence and Fear, Defence, Disappearance. 

Featuring: Nick Maison, Robert Gajewski, James Hobson, Krzysztof Szczenpankski
Soldier interviewees: Misha Solarov, Nigel Ilsley
Cinematography: Nic Knowland BSC, Alessandra Scherillo
Film editor: Nicolas Chaudeurge
Music: Arvo Pärt
Sound design: Chu-li Shewring, Paul Cowgill
Sound recordists: Sean Millar, Mick Duffield
Costume design: Matt Price, Susan Gurley


Camera operator: Tim Sidell-Rodríguez
Steadycam: Simon Wood
Commissioned by: South East Dance
Funded by: Jerwood Foundation, Esmee Fairbairn, Arts Council England
Supported by: Amister Hotel Collection, Néville Sur Mer Mairie
Exec. Producers: Vicky Bloor, Isabel Rocamora
Produced by: Stella Nwimo, Stealth Films for Infinito Productions
Co-Produced by: Sisita Soldevila
Written and directed by: Isabel Rocamora