|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Friday, September 03, 2004
The Hamburg Cell
Antonia Bird's The Hamburg Cell was screened on the UK's Channel 4 last night. It received much pre-emptive flak for showing the 9/11 hijackers as human beings, and for trying to get inside their minds and understand their motives. Two lines of attack were that Ronan Bennett, co-writer with Alice Perman, is an Irish Republican and 'therefore' a terrorist sympathiser, and that screening the film so close to the anniversary of the atrocities is offensive to the relatives and friends of the victims. Both of these are just right-wing political correctness and can be dismissed out of hand.
In fact the film is good, though slow. The physical resemblances of the actors to their originals, particularly the actor playing Mohammed Atta, is uncanny. It shows them as weak, alienated individuals being recruited by the classic methods of any campus cult. (The full details of how they joined Al-Qaeda only became public after it was too late to include them.) Young men without a strong sense of self are a Microsoft for mind viruses, and these were no exception.
Whatever the film's intentions, its effect is that of a recruitment video for militant atheism. We see what was in these guys' minds all right, and what was in their minds was a mass of religious rubbish.