Bury Me In Armor

By James P. Rees | Drama
A journalist decodes a troubled senator's audio tapes, then discovers the truth.

Dimitry George was an illustrious senator, ruthless war hero, distant father, and very troubled man who recently succumbed to Parkinson's. Dying in 1987, he leaves behind his legacy as a politician, as well as a large collection of cassette tapes filled with hours of audio full of his musings, opinions and rants.

Journalist and family friend Mike Pander is tasked with transcribing the tapes for a memoir he's going to write about the senator. He takes a few days off from his job to go to the estate, where the senator's grieving daughter Sarah is going through her father's things and grappling with her husband leaving her. As Mike sifts through the war stories and family tales, he discovers more to the senator's story than he thought.

Directed by James P. Rees from a script by Travis Leland, this short drama explores the idea of legacy and how far some will go to preserve a certain version of it. Handsomely shot and visually elegant, the dominant feature of the storytelling is the senator's audio, which functions as a voiceover leading us into a thicket of his philosophies, ruminations and ravings. Voiced by late legendary actor Ed Asner in one of his final roles before passing, Dimitry's words are garrulous and seething, whether he's recalling family memory or pontificating about life and history. It's also clear that the senator is very troubled, with a rasping malevolence underlining many of his statements.

At first, the tapes seem like the ravings of a man who has succumbed to dementia, forming a sharp contrast to the senator's stately, historical Virginia estate, which Mike explores as he listens to Dimitry's tapes. Mike is gathering up a complicated picture of a complex man desperate to be seen in a certain way, even after death. Complicating that legacy is the senator's daughter, who seems ambivalent about her father.

Deft editing weaves together the script's web of characters, events and backstory, making for a rich and dense character portrait of a preening, powerful man grasping onto some kind of immortality. Though we never see him, Asner's voice exerts a powerful influence, with actors Gregg Mozgala and Alice Kremelberg as the more malleable, sensitive loved ones he left behind in death. Kremelberg deftly portrays a woman lost, dealing with her father's death and her husband's absence, and her bittersweet, sympathetic presence makes clear the price of her father's legacy-making. But as Mike goes deeper into the labyrinthine maze of Dimitry's mind, he discovers just how far the senator was willing to go to exert his final will to power.

With its density of detail and its thoughtful intertwining of visual and sound, "Bury Me In Armor" rewards patient viewing, with a feature's worth of conflict and drama enfolded in its storytelling. Smart and serious, it has the events of a thriller, but it's not interested in pulling viewers along to an extreme of excitement. Instead, it's a meditation on legacy, ego and ambition, weaving together the many layers that make for a man's impact upon the world. The central presence of the film achieved success and power in the public sphere, but the private one is an entirely different matter. Does one negate the other, especially when the other is so dark and ruthless? The story brings us intimately into those questions, exposing the jagged underside of a man complicated in more ways than one.

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