WAR AT HOME -- At the Inner Circle.
The pop crystallization of the '60s as a period of youthful anarchy and free-form fun, when politics excused everyone from class and conventional morality, has already set in enough to make it a jolt to watch a sober and restrained documentary of the period.
In "The War at Home," Glenn Silber and Barry Alexander Brown have used news film of the time and current interviews with the people involved to trace the anti-war movement at the University of Wisconsin from its tentative beginnings, when students worried about whether it was rude to dispute a visiting dignitary, to the bombing of the Army's mathematics center.
The information in it is not new. But the total provides a new view, which is neither that of the time recalled, nor some historical reinterpretation.
It comes from the simple but effective device of being able to watch with hindsight. Presidents and other leaders talk to us with dignity, reason and sophistication -- in statements that we now know were lies. And students whose position was characterized as irresponsible and ignorant are suddenly clothed in the dignity of an intelligent, concerned democracy.
Ironic reverses abound. What ever happened to the notion that the students would grow up to adopt the conventional styles and thinking of their elders? Instead, we are shown former student leaders who, far from looking back on their activities as youthful excess, have carried them into establishment positions. And a view of John Ehrlichman reminds us of what happened not only to the self-righteousness of the now-discredited people, but to their styles. Ehrlichman, after all, grew a beard and went "mellow."
By going painstakingly through the different stages of protests, the filmakers show how violence was suggested and introduced by campus officials and police, and, from the first shock, grew to be almost a natural force for everyone.
The man who blew up the mathematics center is still in jail. One doesn't need to condone or even forgive his act to be moved by his father's apologizing that "We all have a tendency to believe that our children exaggerate" and acknowledging that it is only now that he realizes that "They were telling the truth."