Continuing the personal reflection on war and remembrance she began in her last feature, “2 Minutes Silence, Please,” documaker Heddy Honigmann’s “Crazy” assembles a series of portraits of former Dutch armed forces officers involved in UN peace missions. With the director’s customarily succinct but penetrating style, she examines not only the psychic aftershock of war but, more uniquely, the role of music in helping soldiers to stay sane throughout their ordeal or to remember and deal with their experiences years later. Docu forum and TV bookings seem certain.
Encompassing various ages and military ranks, Honigmann’s subjects served in UN missions that range chronologically from the 1950 Korean War through conflicts in Cambodia, Lebanon, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, with the docu closing poignantly on Dutch peace troops farewelling their loved ones before shipping out to Kosovo. Subtly questioning the nature and efficacy of peace missions, the film reveals a group of men — and one woman — no less scarred and shellshocked by their experience than any Vietnam veteran.
As they recount the horrors they witnessed and the crippling responsibilities they shouldered, the soldiers each recall a particular piece of music that was significant to them during their mission, either as a way of restoring calm or drowning out fear or due to association with some kind of reprieve or momentary happiness.
The music ranges from Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma” to Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” from a Korean folk song to Yugoslavian rock, from Guns n’ Roses’ version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” to Elvis doing “Always on My Mind.” Title comes from the song by Seal, which was accompanied by a harrowing BBC video — excerpted here — of the Sarajevo marketplace massacre. Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” also is featured over the end-credit crawl.
Asking only minimal questions, Honigmann allows the music to coax forth reactions in her subjects, many of whom profess to be trauma-free but quietly reveal themselves to be otherwise. The intimacy of the camera with the soldiers’ faces as the music takes them back is both moving and uncomfortable to watch. Editor Mario Steenbergen skillfully threads together a wide variety of material, including the soldiers’ home movies and videos, photographs and archival footage.