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Beasts of No Nation Film Analysis

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Ian Dretzka

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Beasts of No Nation film analysis

Beasts of No Nation is a shocking story of a boy who is torn from his everyday life and thrown into a war at a very young age. The director of this film, Cary Fukunaga, is a very talented director, writer, and cinematographer who is well known for directing the first season of the series True Detective. His understanding of how to frame the shot just perfectly is exemplified in this film. Every scene is well thought out and connects with the watcher making them truly engrossed in his films. One the best examples of these complex interactions are captured in his latest piece Beasts of No Nation which came out in 2015. The film is based off the book Beasts of No Nation which was written by Uzodinma Iweala. The main theme of Beasts of No Nation that I chose to focus on is dehumanization. With camera angles, camera movement, editing, and sound Cary Fukunaga illustrates a young boy who is forced to his limits.

The first scene that we see dehumanization is when Agu is first captured by Strika and the rest of the soldiers, the commandant calls Agu a thing multiple times but never once a boy or a human. He also asks Strika if he wants to eat this thing referring to Agu, by calling Agu a thing instead of a boy because this makes it easier for the rest of the group to be okay with killing Agu. Some of the film elements that we see in the scene are camera angles, sound, and camera movement. In the scene, we get an almost Agu point of view camera angle as he looks up at the man yelling to the prisoners to look down or to not look at him. We quickly see the camera shift back down to where we can’t see the man’s face anymore and can only assume that Agu’s eyes shifting down is what caused the camera to do the same. This helps us understand that Agu fears the man and is frightened in general. The camera moves around a lot this scene almost from person to person creating a disorientating feeling. Sound plays a big part in this scene as the commandant wants Agu to be loud. When we hear Agu whisper his name we can hear the fear in his voice. Also, we see repetition when the commandant demands to know if Agu is in or out.

The second scene is when Agu is first sent to train to become a soldier, instead of training the boys by themselves they are trained in a group. They are made to walk as a group, turn as a group, shoot as a group, and ultimately think and act like the group rather than themselves. We see the dehumanization in teaching the warriors to think as a group and to not think for themselves or to not act human and to rather act like cogs in the machine of war.

Another scene that we see dehumanization is when the NDF attack the caravan of cars on the bridge. Agu is made to kill one of the survivors of the attack, when he struggles to find the willpower to kill the survivor The Commandant steps in. The Commandant says to Agu “So when you are chopping wood, lift up high-high” This is dehumanization because the commandant is making a direct comparison between killing a man with a machete and chopping wood. One is a very big event and the other is an everyday household chore thus making it feel more acceptable to Agu to kill the man in cold blood. The second example of dehumanization in that scene is when the commandant asks Agu if he has ever chopped a melon, comparing the melon to the man’s head. Splitting a melon versus chopping a man’s head in half are two very different things and by comparing them the commandant is desensitizing Agu to extreme violence. As the scene starts we see the camera pan out to capture the entire picture yet then zoom in on Agu and the commandant as the scene goes on, this is done to put emphasis on the relationship between the commandant and Agu. The camera also switches from the prisoner’s perspective back to Agu and back again to the prisoner’s view to show that Agu is in control. Lastly after Agu and Strika have started to kill the man we see the camera angle change to give us a low camera angle that looks up on Strika and Agu as they chop the man up. Blood is splattered onto the camera lens to show the audience just how graphic the scene was without disturbing the audience.  

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