The grave implications of an anthem

American Strays (1996)

Review of American Strays (1996) movie, by Stefan Stenudd

One of the characters in the movie points out the violence present in the Star Spangled Banner, claiming that it has fostered Americans to a life of violence. He says that it would have been much better if America the Beautiful would have been the US anthem.

       Indeed, the lyrics of the song are filled of war rhetoric. Actually, the French equivalent, La Marseillaise, is just as brutal - at least. I guess that it goes for a number of anthems, since they often emerged from a nationalist crescendo, which is usually related to a war of some sort. All in all, nations as such have a history of war, closely linked to their formation. Hey, that's pretty true about civilization. It's a mystery how this species has survived.

       Anyway, in American Strays, we follow a few fragments of human lives, and how they connect, purely by chance, leading to a grand finale in the spirit of said anthems. It's a sinister perspective on Americans, but also partly a beautiful one. Yes, there is beauty in the midst of gun smoke and brutality - fragile beauty, but isn't that the very nature of beauty? When strong, it loses its shine.

       The film is refined in how it follows some human fates, at the point of their catharsis, and does so without judging, without staying at stereotypes. It is satire, certainly, but done with a heart and with intelligence - and curiosity, too. The characters have several dimensions, far from being simple caricatures, and what happens to them is foreseeable, but still not the most obvious way out.

       Yes, I'm impressed by this little study of human nature. Although the persons depicted are odd creatures, in rare circumstances, something general is being stated about man, about society, about the very torment for each of us in trying to find fulfillment. And that's the same, whatever the nation or its anthem.

Stefan Stenudd
19 January 2003

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Fake Lao Tzu Quotes - Erroneous Tao Te Ching Citations. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Ever Young. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd.
All's End. Science fiction novel by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes - The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido Principles. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Attacks in Aikido. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
Aikibatto. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Occasionally I Contemplate Murder. Book by Stefan Stenudd. QI - increase your life energy. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
Life Energy Encyclopedia. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tarot Unfolded. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Your Health in Your Horoscope. Book by Stefan Stenudd.

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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.