Apr 20

Fury’s ‘tender’ moment: is it rape or is it love?

Furiously divisive: a key scene in Brad Pitt’s war film has split audiences.More on FuryMovie session timesFull movies coverage


Some have called it a rape, others an oddly tender love scene. Either way, the sequence in Fury in which Brad Pitt’s tank commander and Logan Lerman’s novice gunner play house in an apartment occupied by two German women is deeply unsettling, and has provoked some strong responses from the commentariat.

Writing on theconversation老域名出售, anti-slavery researcher Melanie O’Brien is the latest to draw attention to the sequence, referring to “a key ‘sex scene’ that made me wish I hadn’t gone to see it – and left me wondering what Pitt’s wife Angelina Jolie thinks too”.

Jolie has campaigned vigorously on the issue of rape as a weapon of war (her activism partly inspired by her 2011 directorial debut In The Land of Milk and Honey, set during the Bosnian War and drawing on the testimony of women who were raped or sexually abused during the conflict).

If, as O’Brien suggests, the scene in Fury is a rape, and if the film really does “glorify” Pitt’s character, one can indeed imagine the spirited discussion, or the icy silences, that might have settled upon the Jolie-Pitt dinner table over this one. But is that in fact what the scene is about?


Here’s what happens (spoiler alert):

Tank commander Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Pitt) and his inexperienced gunner Norman Ellison (Lerman) are part of an American contingent that takes a small German village, forcing the surrender of the mostly juvenile soldiers there and executing the SS commander who has been responsible for hanging those who are unwilling to die for the Fatherland.

While their colleagues maraud – looting, drinking alcohol, having sex in the tank with a seemingly willing German woman – Collier and Ellison stumble upon a small oasis of civility, an apartment physically and metaphorically above the fray, and not incidentally inhabited by two attractive women, one about Collier’s age, the other about the same age as Ellison.

The men enter, guns in hand, and proceed to make themselves at home. They share little by way of language with the women (Collier speaks some rudimentary German), but manage to make themselves understood. Collier wants hot water, to shave and to bathe. Ellison wants nothing, but Collier – who has brought food, which he asks the elder of the women to prepare – sows the seeds of desire in the mind of his young charge. “If you don’t take her into that bedroom,” he says of the younger woman, Emma (Alicia von Rittberg), “I will”.

Collier is clearly playing pimp, effectively treating the young woman as spoils of war, but it’s not clear if he is serious about his own intentions. He makes no move on the older woman, Irma (Anamaria Marinca), and his desires seem to be less sexual than domestic – eating, bathing, creating an ad-hoc sense of family and respite from the war outside. But there’s no denying the sense of threat in his ultimatum. After all, not so long before this he has executed a German when Ellison refused to do so. Collier is obviously big on initiation rituals, and it’s entirely possible that Germans are, in his mind, nothing more than vehicles for their fulfilment.

The sex between Ellison and Emma is depicted as a sort of wonder amid the horror. Could that be possible? Given her lack of choice in initiating the encounter, could such a scenario be considered anything other than rape?

It’s a vexed issue. Emma and Ellison find common ground in youthful beauty and the knowledge that either of them could be dead tomorrow. There’s a dearth of alternative suitors, too, with the only German males in town either prepubescent or SS oppressors, forcing children into uniform and objectors onto the gallows. For the German civilians in Fury’s scenario, it’s quite possibly a case of better the devil you don’t know.

But the Americans in this story aren’t simply depicted as liberators. When the rest of the crew join Collier and Ellison in that apartment, the dynamic instantly changes. The threat level jumps to code red, the power now tilted utterly towards those with their fingers on the triggers and hatred in their eyes. Any pretence to moral superiority disappears as soon as Jon Bernthal’s Coon-Ass and co enter the room – and there’s nothing “glorious” in Collier’s response to them either. Little wonder Emma simply cries in mute terror.

To my mind, the long, discomfiting sequence in the apartment is the best thing in Fury, the point at which its general air of moral ambiguity comes into sharpest focus.

The whole scene plays like a microcosm of the very idea of a military occupation. It allows that some among the occupiers might behave more civilly than others, at least some of the time.


It allows that moments of decency, of détente, of mutual reward and even joy might occur amid the occupation.

But it never lets us forget that the occupation itself is predicated on a central and ineluctable injustice: one party is there by right, the other has forced its way in.

Fury understands full well the centrality of power in this scenario. It wants us to believe that what happens in that room isn’t rape. But it knows it’s not love either.

On twitter: @karlkwin

Those scenes convey the powerlessness of women in war. This palpable fear/expectation of rape. Not IF but WHEN. #FuryMovie Well done. — laini taylor (@lainitaylor) October 18, 2014″Rape is a global issue.” #AngelinaJolie in #FuryMovie its a war romance pic.twitter老域名出售/UN8TSm7xAZ — Betty (@BettyDoesBangor) October 11, 2014This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 老域名.