Waterboarding: during or after?

Comparing the opening scene from “The Battle of Algiers” with the coercive interrogation scenes from ‘Zero Dark Thirty” one may wonder what’s the most effective in terms of inducing in the audience the true psychological complexity of such a situation.  

Pontecorvo most likely thought that presenting the torment after the fact gives more emotional layers to its representation.  In his scene we feel the tragic consciousness not only within the destroyed confessor but also witness ambiguity within the torturers.  

The Bigelow film on the other hand focuses on the battle of wills.  Even if initially the dread of the situation gets some reactions from the young and ambitious Mia, we mostly experience the scene through its emotional core, which is “yes, it’s extremely brutal but how will it end?”.  

Pontecorvo asks a different question: how can humans live with the brutality of their interactions?

And more broadly: are we able to get the emotional depth of events while they last?  Isn’t their completion the necessary step to reveal to us what they mean?  

What kind of narrators do we want to be: those who participate in the events told or those who try to understand the content of our tales?  Could be the question of temperament.   Or it could also be one of the necessary elements of a true talent: to see the true meaning in the story as it unfolds itself while we spin the tale.  

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