Twenty-four years after its release, Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness, a de-contextualized view of the first Gulf War, still comes across as one of the most piercing war films yet recorded.
It’s almost like an alien’s view of the war—painfully sober, with no direct commentary and almost no words at all. All you get are title cards breaking up extended scenes of destruction in the wake of conflict, and the attempts made to repair.
Particularly bizarre are the scenes of American oil men working in the Middle East desert, looking absurdly calm and out of place even in moments right at the brink of death. There’s the fire from the burning oil wells that they’re putting out, and also the extremely high pressure from the oil itself. One worker comes inches from getting killed on screen, and laughs after nearly getting his top blown off.
The whole thing is on YouTube. On an empty night, give it a watch.