Film is a different medium through which to convey historical experiences of war and its social and cultural contexts. As learned throughout class, memoirs and non-fiction portrayals of war are excellent sources in which to learn of war and its effects on society and vice versa. Film, however, is no better or worse than these books.
Throughout the semester, the class learned of the development of modern warfare since the Civil War in the late nineteenth century and the society that surrounded these wars. In addition to the readings done, seven films were viewed in relation to each war talked about.Each of these films portrays aspects of war and society as discussed in class. Along with the readings done, these films help bring people closer to understanding what war is like and how it affects people differently.
They also show that a person will never truly know what it is like if they have not been there, an immensely important point made in this class. The movie Glory, war and society are portrayed excellently. As learned in class, the Civil War was a war for men to prove their manhood. Men across America joined the war effort because not to do so would show cowardice and threaten a man’s honor the man might hold.Throughout the entirety of the film, this aspect of the war was shown. From beginning to end, as the men went from a group of undisciplined runaway and freed slaves, to a group of hard fighting, heroic soldiers, their search for honor and manhood is portrayed as a physical and psychological journey that says much about the society of the time. As James McPherson’s For Cause and Comrades stated, men who fought in the Civil War did so for multiple reasons.
Although some may not have believed in the abolition of slavery, they still fought in the war because it was their honor on the line.This sense of honor came from the old Victorian ways of the world. It was believed that not fighting was to show personal cowardice while bringing dishonor upon your family. As stated before, this concept was shown throughout the film. For the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, honor and justice is what brought these men together under the command of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. The film shows the men volunteering their service to the Union Army a few years into the war. While undergoing training, the Confederate government ssues a decree that all black soldiers helping the Union will be returned to slavery, while those dressed in federal uniforms shall be immediately put to death along with their white officers. Colonel Shaw gives the men the option to leave if they want, yet the next morning not one had left.
This scene is an excellent example of the concepts discussed in James McPherson’s book as well as the Victorian concepts of war and society discussed in class. Despite the fear that these men must have felt after hearing the decree, their manhood and honor would not allow them to take the easy way out and ignore their duties as soldiers.During the men’s training, another aspect of society was shown. Even though the Union Army was fighting to free African Americans from slavery and save the Union, many soldiers (of higher and lower rank) were racist. This is depicted by the action of the division quartermaster Kendrick.
The viewer is first introduced to Kendrick at the officer’s Christmas dinner, where he clearly shows his lack of respect for the 54th to Colonel Shaw. After that meeting, Kendrick refuses to get the men the simple necessities such as shoes, socks and uniforms.Colonel Shaw eventually got these things for the men, but the point remains that racism was rampant throughout the Army. Once the men completed training, they were assigned menial tasks and manual labor away from the battlefront. This shows racism again, in the organization of the Army. During this time, the film showed how these black soldiers were treated by the white soldiers surrounding them as well. This was depicted by the scene on the road as the white regiments were walking to the battlefront.
Private Trip entered into some verbal jabbing with a group of white soldiers.As it escalated, Sergeant John Rawlins broke it up. The white soldiers then called him (a higher ranked N.
C. O. ) a “nigger” and did not listen to his order. As stated before, the Union Army was fighting for the freedom of slaves and the conservation of the Union, but many of the soldiers and organizations were still racist towards black soldiers.
At the end of the movie, all of these concepts come to a climax. As the 54th prepares to lead the charge on Fort Wagner, racism is put in the background. The white soldiers develop a sense of respect for the courage and honor of the men of the 54th.This scene also shows the ideas discussed before. The officers and men of the 54th knew that they were heading into an impossible situation. They knew they were going to suffer severe casualties, but out of their sense of duty, and particularly their sense of honor, they pushed through their fear and charged the fort.
Colonel Shaw, as depicted in the movie, gave his life to push his men forward. This very powerful scene portrayed the ideas of the time, that as an honorable man, you push through impossibility and fight with courage and bravery.The film Glory was an excellent representation of war and society during the Civil War. As learned in class, the society of the time was based on honor. An honorable man fought for his country and did so valiantly. The African American men and their officers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry did just that while also pushing through and confronting personal and institutional racism. These men came together and, according to the Victorian ideals of the time, served their country and each other, as they should.
As for The Great War, it was the first time the people of this planet witnessed death and destruction of such magnitude and gruesomeness. People’s bodies were blown to pieces by the new destructive instruments of war that were introduced. Honor, in the traditional sense, was taken away from many. Being killed by something falling from the sky was more commonplace than standing and facing the man trying to kill you. The movie Gallipoli portrays the harsh reality of The Great War, while also showing the struggle for people to leave behind their traditional standards and face the actuality of this repugnant battle.Archie Hamilton and Frank Dunne, the protagonists of this story, give a good insight into the way many young men thought during those times and the actions they took to fulfill the beliefs they held.
From the beginning of the film, you are introduced to the sense of honor these young men felt for their country. Frank Dunne, at this moment, was unlike his contemporaries in the fact that he had no desire to join the war effort. Later in the film, you find out that the English Empire, the imperial ruler of Australia, killed his grandfather and that is where his discontent came from.His friends, however, declare they are not afraid to die for their country. Many men felt there was a sense of honor to fight, and die, for their country, a type honor that can be achieved no other way.
This is also shown in Archie and Frank’s discussion while crossing the desert. As Frank tells Archie that he does not intend to join the war, Archie says, “You’ve got to fight…I’d be ashamed of myself if I didn’t. ” This is an excellent example of that prevalent sense of honor once again. Eventually, Frank decides to join up along with his compatriots and enlists in the infantry.During these times, you get a good indication of how the military was struggling to leave behind the traditional views of war and enter into the new, modern reality of trench warfare. At two points, Archie Hamilton must try for the Light Horse, a squadron of men on horseback. In order to obtain membership in this somewhat elite group, a man must first prove his ability to ride a horse. Thinking of the actuality of trench warfare, there is no need for a man to have this skill set, yet they continue it anyway and actually exclude men, like Frank, who do not succeed.
Once both men had joined up, they were sent to Cairo, which is where they would meet again. Here is where the men were trained, and through one of their drills, the audience is able to witness the lack of realism in their mock battles. Their training still held traditional values. Men go over the top, set up lines, fire, charge and battle hand to hand. As you can learn from memoirs like that of Ernst J(nger, this is not even close to the realities of the fighting in The Great War. For example, the long, drawn out days of sitting in the same spot within your trench, not moving and waiting for a shell to come down on you (J(nger, pg. 0). As the men were sent to Gallipoli to battle the Turkish army, the realities of war began to show and the way these men faced it became apparent.
Upon arriving on the shoreline, the men were able to see the artillery bursts exploding on the beachfront. Over the next couple of weeks as the men lived on the beach and in the trenches, shells falling in random places became commonplace. Unlike any other war in history, death could drop from the sky at any moment by anyone.
This is also shown in J(nger’s memoir when he arrives at the village he was first stationed in France.Shells falling randomly, leaving death and destruction in its wake, was a normal occurrence. The first glimpse of the reality of battle in the film was seen when the infantry was sent over the top. After the battle, men were coming back in pieces. Many of those lucky enough to survive came back badly wounded. Frank Dunne, who still had good friends in the infantry, lost two of them. This “nobility of fighting” that seemed to be held by many of the new soldiers was shaken at this point. The men’s responses in the film fell in line with the many things discussed by J(nger in his memoir.
Throughout the beginning of his book, J(nger discusses young men’s eagerness for war. Archie Hamilton fits perfectly in with this description. As the men arrived on the shore and Archie could see the shells bursting, he could not help but let out a smile. At the end of the film, before Archie was sent over the top and killed, he wrote a letter to his parents. In this letter, he described the battle as a great adventure. For those lucky enough to survive their first battle, this feeling of adventure was diminished by the reality of it.In addition, as J(nger discussed, boredom played a major role in life on the front. He discusses men playing with grenades and playing practical jokes on the opposing trench by placing bells on their wire, for example (J(nger, 48).
The film also shows this in the scene where the men go skinny-dipping in the ocean and the first one to be injured by a shell wins money. As foolish as that sounds, the men became so used to the prospect of death, that these games became fun and distracting. The film Gallipoli is an excellent portrayal of war and society during The Great War.Archie Hamilton and Frank Dunne are two average young men of the time, who go off to war and face the realities of the situation. Based off memoirs’ such as Ernst J(nger’s, one can say this film is a good representation of how many young men acted and felt. The Great War was an interesting time in which the men fighting maintained traditional values, yet had to face the realities that were much darker, and this film captured the essence of that very fact.
Clint Eastwood’s film, Letters from Iwo Jima, is a moving tale about the World War II battle between the United States and the Imperial Japanese Empire over a small island in the Pacific.The film, shot from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers, gives excellent insight into the mindset and culture of these young Japanese men. There are many examples in this movie of how the Japanese Empire and its commanders would not tolerate any cowardly actions. Their idea of cowardly actions, however, was much different from American ideals.
In addition, race played a large role in these men’s mindsets on both sides. The Japanese despised the Americans just as much as the Americans despised the Japanese. Overall, this film covers an array of cultural topics, while portraying the gruesomeness seen during World War II.Throughout the film, the viewer receives good insight into how the way things were for the people of Japan during World War II, both in the war and at home. In one scene, Saigo explained to his friend his life before the war, as well as what happened to his family when the war broke out.
He and his wife owned a small, successful bakery in their hometown. He explained how everything was great until the war started. He continued to describe how the Kempeitai soldiers of Japan came in and took whatever they wanted.
It first started with their pastries, and then they were to make sandwiches for the men to take.Eventually, when there were no supplies left for the bakery to operate, the soldiers began to take apart all of the bakery’s equipment, using the metal for the war effort. This is an example of how the Japanese government and its people were involved in a complete total war.
No person was above the good of the country and it was illegal to think otherwise. Another example of the harsh reality for Japanese citizens came in a story told by an ex-Kempeitai soldier, Shimuzu, fighting with Saigo in Iwo Jima. He and his commanding officer were patrolling the streets of Japan to ensure that patriotic fervor was displayed at every household.
It was then they discovered a house not flying the Japanese flag. The men, being very stern, had the woman of the house put one up. At this time, the dog of the household began to bark and the soldier was ordered to dispose of it due to its interjection into official government business. Not only is this harsh beyond belief and ridiculous, but when the soldier disobeyed the order, he was kicked out of the Kempeitai and sent to Iwo Jima because his higher ups believed he did not have enough honor to serve in such a prestigious institution.
One of the major points made in this film was about the Japanese dedication o their cause. Close to the beginning of the movie, Saigo, digging in the sand, made some light-hearted comments to his friend about the island, saying how they should let the Americans take it so they could go home. When a superior officer heard this, he punished them brutally by beating both men with a stick. It was not until General Kuribayashi ordered the man to stop that he let the men go.
Harsh punishment over minor offenses was not the only example of the Japanese commitment to their cause. General Kuribayashi sent one of his officers back to the mainland, but not before having a heated discussion with him.In this discussion, Kuribayashi says, “We will defend this island until we are dead! Until the very last soldier is dead! ” Later in the film, the Japanese soldiers lose Suribachi, a crucial mountain in their fight against the Americans. Instead of following an order to retreat to the north to continue fighting, given by Kuribayashi, the men use grenades to blow themselves up. This is an example of the fact that Japanese soldiers felt it was their duty to die defending their post, even if it had to be by their own hand. Another major theme emphasized in this movie was race.There was racism on both sides of the fighting and a lot of it.
As stated in class, there were atrocities everywhere in this war, but none like those seen in the Pacific Theater of Operations. At one point in the film, Saigo and Shimuzu were moving through the tunnels when they came across a group of soldiers with an American prisoner. They watched as the soldiers brutally beat this young man before viciously stabbing him multiple times with their bayonets. Later in the movie, Shimuzu deserted his post to surrender to the Americans. Once captured, two American soldiers were put in charge of watching him and another prisoner.The Americans felt they were sitting ducks so one of them decided to kill both prisoners of war.
In order to do these things to a fellow human, one must not think of the other person as human at all. Shimuzu states this clearly before his capture. After hearing a letter read aloud from the mother of an American prisoner (one treated fairly), Shimuzu described his conflict over how he was taught that Americans were savage, cowardice creatures, yet this letter sounds like one he would receive from his mother. This single statement reveals much of the reason why Japanese soldiers hated Americans.Like Americans being taught stereotypes about Japanese, the Japanese were learning the same about the Americans, fostering a deep-seated belief in the inhumanity of the enemy (Lecture, 3/14/11).
The results, as seen, were horrendous atrocities committed by both sides. Letters from Iwo Jima was a gripping, intricate film. It was a film that gave its viewers gruesome insight into the realities of the Battle of Iwo Jima, as well as the rest of the war in the Pacific. It portrayed the fierce commitment of Japanese soldiers as well as the forced commitment (when necessary) of Japanese citizens.Soldiers were beaten brutally for what Americans would call minor transgressions, while citizens at home were facing harsh punishment for similarly minor offenses.
The film also portrayed the racism of both sides of this battle as well as its resulting atrocities. In addition to these important aspects, the film also provides a unique look at this battle from the perspective of the Japanese, a perspective not shown very often. The Vietnam War was a unique experience for the American military. Until this event, the country was used to victory and expected nothing less.Unfortunately, it had never gone up against the type of fighting seen in this horrific battle. Guerilla warfare was used by the Vietcong as well as by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) to inflict damage on the invading United States armed forces. In addition to having to manage a fight against this type of enemy, the men of the military had to deal with issues seen in other wars as well. Racism played a major role in the atrocities and awfulness experienced by many Vietnamese like the Japanese and Americans both faced in the Pacific Theater of Operation in World War II.
The film Apocalypse Now portrays these different aspects of the Vietnam War in detail, sparing no horror. As discussed in class, race can play a major role in the fighting of a war (Lecture, 3/14/11). As seen in the American-Japanese fighting of the Second World War, racism made it easier for soldiers to commit atrocities against one another.
A soldier would view his opponent not as a human, but as a savage animal not deserving of respect, decency nor humanity (Lecture, 3/14/11). Apocalypse Now shows this exact same issue in Vietnam.At one point, while heading up the river, the youngest soldier on the boat, Tyrone ‘Clean’ Miller, tells a story to his fellow comrades. The majority of the content is insignificant, but the theme of the story is relevant in portraying this point. Not only did Clean use the words “gook” and “slant” repeatedly to describe the Vietnamese man he was talking about, he explained how another American soldier shot and killed him for touching his Playboy Magazine. The soldier he was telling this to, Jay ‘Chef’ Hicks responded with laughter.Not only did this show a soldiers blatant disregard for human life in killing a man over a magazine, but it also showed other soldiers’ similarly cold responses because they did not respect the racial equality or even the humanity of the Vietnamese.
Not long after this story was told, the true results of racism were observed. Chief Phillips decided to perform a routine search of a Vietnamese boat on the river to check if they were running weapons for the Vietcong or NVA. Chef boarded the boat to hand search the materials on board.His complete lack of respect for these people could be seen instantaneously as he began pushing and throwing these men and woman around the boat. While this was happening Clean was operating one of the boats’ guns to ensure their safety. He began taunting their fear and calling them “slopes”. This culminated when the women on the boat moved toward Chef to stop him from looking in a container. Clean opened fired, killing everyone on board the boat.
Racism, as well as irresponsibility and fear as Samuel Hynes would put it, is what would allow such an atrocity to happen.Soldier’s were “unused to taking responsibility or making moral decisions [and then] dropped into an alien and fearful place” (Hynes, pg. 184). The fact that Clean viewed these people more as animals than humans, combined with his immaturity and fear as a seventeen year old, made it easier for him to open fire and kill everyone over what ended up being a hidden puppy. This constant fear and chaos is in large part due to the guerilla tactics used by the Vietcong and the NVA. These guerilla tactics were new to American forces.
They had never come up against anything like it before this conflict.These guerilla soldiers developed a new way of fighting. Instead of meeting their enemy in battle as was done in the World Wars (a battle they would certainly lose) they hid among the landscape and only fought when they knew they would inflict more damage on the enemy than they would receive themselves. “… avoid the solid, attack the hollow; attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision” (Mao, “What is Guerilla Warfare”, pg. 43).
The film shows this in the scene where they were driving up the river in enemy territory.One second, the waters were calm and things were moving along well, and the next they were being attacked from the bushes on both sides of the river. Not one enemy combatant was visible from beginning to end. It was over just as soon as it started, and the boat ended up one soldier down. Another way this type of conflict was an added difficulty was the fact that the guerillas had the support of the people. As Che Guevara puts it, “It is important to emphasize that guerilla warfare is a war of the masses, a war of the people” (Guevara, pg. 10).
Mao Zedong also speaks of guerilla warfare concerning the Chinese conflict with Japan saying, “The moment that this war of resistance dissociates itself from the masses of the people is the moment that it dissociates itself from hope of ultimate victory…” (Zedong, “What is Guerilla Warfare”, pg. 42). This is shown throughout the film.
For example, the scene of the helicopter cavalry’s attack on a Vietcong stronghold shows how Vietcong soldiers lived among the people. According to Mao and Che, this was a crucial part to winning a guerilla war.Soldiers needed the support of the masses. A problem arose from this cavalry attack, however, as many similar problems arose throughout the conflict.
When soldiers live among civilians, the only way to attack them is to attack the civilians as well. As Mao puts it speaking of those fighting against the people, “… [they] have been contrary to the true interests of the people. They must be firmly opposed. They are easy to destroy because they lack a broad foundation in the people” (Zedong, “What is Guerilla Warfare”, pg. 44).
Because the United States military needed to attack civilians in order to attack the guerillas, they lost the faith of the people. That is why during this cavalry attack a female civilian ran up to one of the choppers transporting wounded Americans and threw a grenade in it. She paid for this with her life, but the fact remains that she was willing to do so.
The Vietnam War was unique in the way it was fought. Some things remained from previous wars, such as racist ideals and beliefs that allowed for the possibility of atrocities and murder. Overall, this war was different.
Soldiers could fight an entire, uick battle without seeing a single member of the enemy. Men would devastate hills and only find a few enemy bodies (Lecture, 3/28/11). Leaders such as Mao Zedong and Che Guevara understood the benefits to guerilla warfare and the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army took advantage of similar ideals. Without the support of the masses in this new type of war, it did not matter how many guns you had because there is no result that would leave you as the victor. The movie No Man’s Land is an excellent portrayal of different aspects of war and society in Bosnia during the Bosnian War.Although the overwhelming majority of the movie takes place in the same trench, it is able to convey its message effectively to viewers. The obstinacy shown by both Ciki and Nino, the two main characters of opposing sides stuck with one another in the trench, when discussing the cause of the war provides the viewer with a look at how countless people on both sides felt as well as the feelings of detestation they felt for one another.
The movie, although not gory or grotesque, makes the viewer aware of the harsh realities of the war.It shows how mining and artillery bursts and their destruction were the norm for the battlefield. The film also touches upon the fact that civilians were in the center of the fighting through its depiction of the media coverage shown to the world. Overall, No Man’s Land touches upon many points and shows viewers a small glimpse of what it was like for many people during this conflict. Soon after the first time Ciki took control over the situation in the trench, he and Nino found themselves hiding in a dugout waiting for an artillery barrage to end.While hiding the men argued about whose side started the war.
This argument showed an important aspect to the way those fighting felt. Each man despised the other because of his respective beliefs about the rightness of what they were doing. Nino, a Serbian whose side massacred and raped thousands of people, believed it was Ciki’s people that were the perpetrators. Moreover, Ciki, whose side also committed certain atrocities, believed that Nino’s was the only side to blame.
This stubborn refusal to compromise combined with hatred made it impossible for these two men to get along.This stubbornness is portrayed in Anthony Lloyd’s book My War Gone By, I Miss It So. “[Jasmin] told me that he would not run across to the other side, explaining that he ‘never ran for those people’” (Lloyd, pg.
16). Even when faced with possible death, men and women would refuse to look weak to the opposing side. During the same argument, Ciki confronted Nino about booby-trapping dead bodies. Nino explained how it was not the same as other atrocities and unfair fighting. This touches upon the age-old question of what is acceptable and what is not.
The rules of war are complex and contradictory. Is dropping fire from aircraft on to civilians in Dresden more acceptable than cutting their throats with a knife in Bosnia? ” (Lloyd, pg. 141). Both of these men felt that the actions they took were in the right while the actions taken by their enemies were in the wrong. In reality, who is right and who is wrong is simply a matter of perspective or force.
For example, while in the trench the man who had the gone was in the right. This is symbolic of the overall truth that the winning side, whoever was able to convey more force, was right.As discussed in class, revolutionary wars such as the type fought in Bosnia become “dirty wars” very quickly (Lecture, 3/29/11). Soldiers have deep emotional connections to what they are fighting for and therefore fight in a way that ensures they will win, no matter the cost.
One action, in particular, portrays this. As mentioned before, Serbian troops became known for using booby-traps to catch enemy combatants off guard and unprotected. The film shows the length to which some soldiers would go, using dead bodies as bait.When a soldier would see his comrade lying lifeless, on the floor, he would go to move the body, resulting in horrific, gruesome deaths. Earlier in the film, Ciki wandered the trench to find a way out and he came across a trip wire.
Booby-traps such as these were commonplace on the different battlefields of the war, and soldiers had to be careful with everything they touched. The impersonal destruction of bodies and lives was of no concern to those who laid the traps. It was “a conclusion to the trigger-bullet-body equation” (Lloyd, pg. 34). The film also shows how civilians were greatly involved in the war.Again, referring to the argument between Ciki and Nino, Ciki revealed how the fighting destroyed his village. Everything he knew and lived to create, his home, his family, was destroyed and disrupted.
People were displaced, beaten, abused and even killed. It was made clear that soldiers were not the only people suffering. Later in the movie, the media became involved in the situation faced in the trench and it is through this medium the viewers are shown a glimpse of the civilian suffering due to this war. Bosnian Serbs began attacking cities “protected only by armed Bosnian civilians” (No Man’s Land).The killing of civilians was a major part of this war effort making it very unpopular on the world stage. Lloyd describes, in gruesome detail, the first civilian casualties he witnessed: “An elderly couple were rushed in on stretchers.
They had been walking together in the old town and shot with an anti-aircraft gun. Great lumps had been blasted out of them leaving ghastly injuries, gaping wounds of bone sliver, blood and tattered flesh” (Lloyd, pg. 31). In addition to this horrific sight, Lloyd witnessed a nice, young girl be killed by artillery blasts (Lloyd, pg. 35).
She was an innocent girl that had nothing to do with the fight. No Man’s Land is a film that portrays the dreadfulness of the Bosnian War. Many people of the land felt total hatred for others and acted on those feelings. Men, who in other circumstances might be friends, were pitted against each other in battle while blaming one another for the situation in which they all found themselves. Many soldiers did not hold the slightest respect for the dead, using their bodies as booby-traps to kill others.
Civilians were not only involved, but also put in the center of the fighting.Cities such a Sarajevo turned into war zones, with civilians arming themselves to defend their land. As civilian casualties rose, massacres and rapes became more prevalent and the world watched in horror. No Man’s Land captured the essence of these central themes and revealed them to its audiences. The film The Messenger portrays many different features of the war in Iraq. Like many of the modern wars before it, this war is fought predominantly by guerrilla insurgents. These fighters are willing to do anything it takes to defeat the enemy.Shelling and sniper fire is a common occurrence and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), which can blow up anywhere at any time, are a major player in the arsenal of these rebels.
Men like Will Montgomery and Captain Tony Stone, members of the Army Casualty Notification Team, are faced with their own demons because of such realities. Will faced this gruesome fighting in his own war, and due to his experiences, suffered a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder is not uncommon among soldiers and this film shows how different people manage it in various ways, some more negative than others.The war in Iraq, like any other modern war, is one of gruesome death and hard fighting. Iraqi rebels engage in guerrilla warfare to combat American soldiers, using IED’s as a major weapon of choice. Along with these IED’s, the guerrilla fighters use snipers who are hidden among the buildings of a city to take out enemy forces.
In The Messenger, Will Montgomery describes his experience in Iraq to Captain Tony Stone, an experience similar in many ways to other soldiers who fought. He describes being in the center of a city with his men, taking heavy sniper fire while being shelled and trying to find cover.This experience is not out of the ordinary, as Dexter Filkins describes in the Prologue of his book, The Forever War: “The insurgents knew what they were doing; they were bracketing us with their shells, dropping them to the left and to the right…We tried to back up, to retrace our steps, but there were snipers behind us, too” (Filkins, pg.
5). Will goes on to explain his actions, which in the end saved many of his men. One, however, was not saved and it was he who was stuck in Will’s mind. While pushing a wounded soldier under a car to protect him, one of these IED’s detonated.Not only did this kill the soldier instantly, but it sent “flesh shrapnel” everywhere, hurting Will’s leg and face severely.
Not only does this portray the gruesome reality of modern war, but it also shows the unique development of this war: the destructive forces of IEDs. It is these destructive, guerrilla tactics, along with the hard fighting of the Iraqi insurgents that prompts Captain Stone to discuss soldiers’ readiness for war. He tells Will that families and soldiers are informed about what might happen while they are over there. But these warnings have little effect because nobody is every truly prepared for what happens in war.Men die brutal deaths while fear is a constant companion. This touches on the most important aspect of war discussed throughout the semester.
It is not possible for people to understand the experiences of war without experiencing it themselves. And often times, unfortunately, these experiences can have devastating mental effects on veterans after they return home. While driving to inform a family of their son’s death, which is what Captain Stone and Will are assigned to do, Stone points out this changing effect war has. He tells Will that the things they have seen cannot be unseen.They are forever going to be in the heads of these soldiers. “It’s too late for you…You can’t be an insurance salesman now, brother” (The Messenger, 1:10:19). Sadly, this holds to be true in many cases. Olivia Pitterson, the widow of a fallen soldier who the moral dilemma Will faces revolves around, describes her husband’s change due to war.
She explained how the man who returned from Iraq was no longer the same man she knew before. He treated her and their son badly, “So in a way, in [her] mind, it was like he was dead already” (The Messenger, 1:06:02).One scene, in particular, shows the effects of PTSD.
While having a drink at the local bar, Will overheard a group of people celebrating a soldier’s return home. This soldier told the story of “Hajji Wan Kenobi”, an Iraqi man he befriended while away at war. The soldier goes into great detail about the man and how much he enjoyed his company when suddenly he explains the man was shot multiple times and was killed. This memory not only troubled the soldier’s friends, it unsettled him to the point that he needed to step outside for a cigarette. Will followed him outside to see how he was holding up.The soldier, who was clearly shaken up, claimed to be fine, thanked Will and walked away. Later in the film, Will makes it clear why he was so concerned for his comrade. He explains his own traumatic experience that culminated in his contemplation of suicide.
PTSD affects many different people many different ways. For soldier’s, this affect can lead to very negative actions. As mentioned earlier, Olivia Pitterson’s husband turned violent against his own family and the soldier from the bar was visibly having trouble living with the horror he had witnessed at war.Will Montgomery also had to deal with the harsh reality of PTSD. When it comes to this disorder in Iraq (and Afghanistan) veterans, a leading cause is due to the prevalence of IED’s (Lecture, 3/8/11). In Will’s case, the IEDs from his aforementioned story were the root cause for his PTSD. Will believed he was saving a man by pushing him under a car for cover, when in reality he was “loading him into a bomb.
” What his story shows us is just how far PTSD can push a person. Will almost committed suicide by jumping off the roof of the hospital in which he was recovering.The scene in which Will opens up about this fact shows just how hard it is for soldiers to mentally deal with the things they have done and seen in war. The Messenger portrays a variety of aspects about soldiers returning from war in Iraq. The fighting was harsh due to IEDs and snipers. Guerrilla insurgents could be anywhere and they were relentless in their attack. The reality created by these fighting conditions led Captain Stone to make the valid point that despite what people are told, they are never prepared for the things seen in war.This provides excellent evidence to the argument that to understand war, one needs to have been there.
Once soldiers are there and return, many face the trials of PTSD, a serious disorder that affects many combat soldiers. Men become violent, disillusioned with reality, and in Will’s case, contemplate ending their own lives. War is filled with many horrors, many of which follow its participant’s home and continue affecting them for the rest of their lives and this film portrays that to its audience. The Israeli-Palestine conflict has been ongoing since the nation of Israel was first created after World War II.This area has been the scene of extreme violence perpetrated by both sides. The film, Paradise Now, portrays this violence in a unique way.
Throughout the entirety of the movie violence is never shown, it is merely implied. This implication, however, is enough to give the viewer a small insight into the way these people live. Another unique aspect of this film is that it is shown from the point of view of two suicide bombers. The movie starts with them living their day to day lives, looking for work and trying to get by.
However, as time goes on the viewer learns more about these men and the causes for which they are fighting. Many people assume suicide bombers kill themselves out of religious belief and nothing else. As this film shows, that is not the case. There are many political reasons behind the actions these men take. This film also shows that people held different beliefs about how to fight back, complicating emotions and ideals.
Said and Khaled, the main characters of the film, are introduced as two normal men working as mechanics.Despite the Israeli occupation of their homeland and the extreme violence occurring around them, these men are portrayed as trying to live their daily lives. Suha, Said’s love interest in the film, also portrays this. She is a woman who grew up outside of this turmoil in Morocco, but returned because Nablus is her home.
One scene in particular shows this reality of people living their day to day lives amidst this warfare. After exiting a taxi, Suha joins a long line of what seems to be people walking to work. As they are walking bombs are heard going off in the background.
Instead of running in fear as many would imagine doing, these citizens kept their heads down and kept walking. This connects directly with what Dexter Filkins discussed in his book, The Forever War. As a reporter embedded with the American military in Iraq, he noted on multiple occasions people going about their business normally in the presence of warfare. Said and Khaled’s lives do not maintain normalcy for long, however, as they are called upon to give up their lives for the cause of freedom. Once Said and Khaled begin their mission to kill themselves in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, different motives become apparent.
As mentioned before many people tend to assume a jihadist’s motivation derives only from radical religious beliefs. As the film shows, this is not always the case. Said’s believes becoming a martyr for his cause is the only way to redeem his family’s reputation. Years earlier his father was found to be a collaborator with the Israeli occupiers. The punishment for this offense was execution. Said held the Israelis personally responsible and so came his motivation to kill them. Khaled’s incentive stems more from his political views.
He is a very religious man and believes he will receive eternity in paradise for his sacrifice, but the reason he is so willing at first comes from his political ideals. He feels that “to be inferior is to be dead already” and the only way to defeat his enemy is by never giving up on violent resistance. He believed that peaceful means have not and would not help the situation his people were faced with.
Violence and death were the only means to make things change. This connects to Filkins’ idea of jihadist’s “logic of violence” (Filkins, pg. 74). Thanks to Suha, Khaled’s political views are challenged and ultimately changed. In one scene, Khaled and Suha are driving to find Said who was missing. Suha realized what the two men were planning on doing and she made the choice to not sit back and allow them to do it. She challenged Khaled’s political views as illogical.
She explained that blowing himself up to kill a group of Israeli soldiers would not only be futile, it would create an increasingly violent environment because it would cause the Israeli occupiers to retaliate.This scene connects to an argument Filkins made about different people holding different beliefs within a warzone. When talking to a doctor, Filkins discovered that his views were drastically different than others he had interviewed (Filkins, pg. 141). This multitude of differing views in a place with little to no stability creates a very complicated environment (Lecture, 4/26/11). This conversation eventually leads to Khaled’s change of heart and he does not go through with the bombing.
Unfortunately Said’s beliefs were too strong to change.Paradise Now excellently portrays a unique feature of warfare. Suicide bombings have become commonplace in today’s fighting and the public does not know much about it. As stated earlier, most people assume religion is the sole reason behind this radical decision to commit suicide for their cause.
This is not always true. Said believed participating in such an activity was the only way to redeem his family’s honor. This belief was strong enough to push Said to complete his mission.
Khaled, conversely, had political motivations.His belief in the “logic of violence” discussed by Filkins promoted his belief in participating in a suicide bombing. Suha, however, was able to change Khaled’s belief because hers was much different. This difference in opinion not only saved Khaled’s life, but it portrayed to the viewer how different people’s opinions were making it hard for a country with almost no government to unite. The problems between Israel and Palestine have been occurring for decades and will continue to do so as will the issues the people of the land must face.In conclusion, each of these films fit in well with the readings done for their respective wars. Men like Ernst Junger, Henri Barbusse, Samuel Hynes, etc.
wrote books to teach their readers of the experiences of war. As a reader, one learns of the horrors seen as well as the emotions felt. Films such as Letters from Iwo Jima, The Messenger, No Man’s Land, etc. do just the same. Each of the films transports the reader into the situation. Visual stimulation is just as effective as descriptive writing. Seeing the gruesome ways in which men died stimulates the viewer’s brain in the same ways as reading of it.
Movies that are well made and well researched convey just as much useful information to its audience and as a book meeting the same criteria. A book thrown together by a less than reputable scholar is going to have just as much of a detrimental effect on its readers as a movie that does the same. As long as the facts are correct, it is of quality production and holds a certain entertainment value, a film is just as good of an education device as a book that is well researched, well written and has a certain entertainment value as well.