This chapter aims at assessing the place of the UN Charter in ‘action movies’, i.e. movies representing the use of armed force in international relations. After spending several hundreds of hours in watching films and series of this kind, a clear conclusion can be drawn: the UN Charter rules are, in most cases, not cited or even evoked as such. The legal debate often appears unnecessary, inappropriate or absurd. To the viewer, it is rather the emergency of the situation and the necessity of action that prevails. In the rare cases where a legal rule is at stake, it is either interpreted broadly to justify military action, or rejected as a formalistic and unrealistic constraint. All in all, action movies generally represent the UN Charter rule on the use of force as inefficient, illegitimate or even ludicrous. Those characteristics can sometimes be explained by certain links between Hollywood and the Pentagon. But, in most cases, the image of a UN Charter with limited scope and effects appears as a cultural representation shared by many directors and filmmakers without any political interference.
The aim of this introductory chapter is to provide some reflections with regard to methodologies that are used when analysing films and TV series from an international law perspective. Different tendencies may be distinguished in the existing literature. Among them, critical studies focus on the connection between cinema and ideology, both from legal scholars already associated with critical schools of legal thought and from specialists in international relations or political science. This approach has been shared by all the authors of this book, with a double objective: first, to identify representations of international law in cinematographic productions; and, second, to try to determine some of the functions of these representations in the (international) society. In doing so, the authors will contrast the narratives of international law depicted in film and TV with the corresponding narratives advanced by legal scholars. This will lead to the identification of a cognitive dissonance between them and an assessment of its implications for general perceptions of international law.
Cinema has been an object of study for the social sciences for some time now. The relationship between law and cinema has been the subject of a certain number of reflections by jurists who work essentially within a national legal framework, and from the true genre that courtroom movies have become. One can point also to studies linking cinema and international relations. In short, the relationship between international law and cinema has never been the subject of a specific book. The objective of the present book is to show what image of international law and its norms is conveyed in films and series. Beyond a strictly legal analysis, the ambition is to take into account, in a broader perspective marked by interdisciplinarity, the relations between international law, cinema and ideology. The volume is aimed at a readership made of scholars, researchers as well as practitioners, in the field of international law, and related fields, all of whom will benefit from being introduced to a variety of perspectives on core international legal questions present in movies and TV series. Further, the volume can also be used with advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students studying international law, politics and international relations because it will provide the possibility of introducing students to a variety of perspectives on key issues in international law present in movies and TV series.