View the H-War Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-War's January 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-War's January 2010 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-War home page.
1. daniel spector <email@example.com> 2. Chris Schultz <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----Message from: daniel spector <email@example.com>----- > In regard to this inquiry about historically valid films on > war, I must register a major word of caution. Aside from the > fact that many war films are anywhere from somewhere > inaccurate to films which have nothing at all to do with > history (e.g, Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter), the great > bulk of them, even the very good ones, are about the > experience of war by human beings, not about the valid > history of the conflict. For instance, the excellent German > file Das Boot, about German submariners, reveals nothing > about the root causes of WW2, its overall history, and who, > if anyone, was the good guy or the bad guy. The same can be > said about Saving Private Ryan or Letters from Iwo Jima. The > outstanding series Band of Brothers has only one section, the > liberation of a Nazi work camp, that reflects on who might > have been the bad guys in that war. > > Commercial films are made to make money and be good art, and > not to be documentaries about war. For that, the UK series > World At War is one of the best ever made. R.J. Del Vecchio's comment is valid, but war films are usefeul (and entertaining) in reflecting the attitudes of the producers and audiences at the time of their release. When teaching a course on America in Vietnam, I used three films to show the evolution of "Hollywood's" view of the war (and the American view) over time. I began with the White Hat-Black Hat - good guy verfsus bad guy -genre of the Western films of the thirties-forties, and fifties. Mid way through the course I showed Apocalypst Now for a surrealistic view of the war. The last movie was Platoon for a realistic view. My though was that our view of the war evolved much like the three movies. This led to great classroom discussion and pretty good term papers. Best Dan Spector daniel spector <firstname.lastname@example.org> -----Message from: Chris Schultz <email@example.com>----- > R J Del Vecchio writes: "the great bulk of [war films], even > the very good ones, are about the experience of war by human > beings, not about the valid history of the conflict." It is clear to me from this and a later quote ("Das Boot, about German submariners, reveals nothing about the root causes of WW2") that the only "valid" history is political, top-down history. Mr. Del Vecchio would be correct in his caution... if only that were considered to be the only valid history. There are literally hundreds of publications that consider war as a complex interplay between individuals and larger political bodies, smaller communities and whole nations, and the sentiments exchanged between them. _Das Boot_, for instance, is a brilliant and humanistic depiction of war, with its all conviction, fear, doubt, and (often) suffering; _The World At War_ is quite the opposite. But both are "valid" histories because, frankly, wars have always been fought by individuals and their responses are highly individualized. What film does very well is present composite sketches of diverse attitudes, typically embodied in a central character. Oliver Stone's _Platoon_, for example, is a brilliant war narrative that employs archetypal figures to make a point. Is it monolithic in its depictions? Certainly. But that's where the instructor must take an active role in facilitating how his/her students might nuance these representations, or at least consider them collectively. There is no question that most films are made for profit (art is far, far down the scale for films the public ever sees), but the same can be said of documentaries. They both play up the drama, albeit in different ways. Recall Sergei Eisenstein's famous quote (I paraphrase slightly): "Sometimes in the interests of truthfulness, the truth can be ignored." His agenda in recreating the October Revolution was to capture a public sentiment and perception, not the actuality of political intrigue. Again, going back to my earlier critique of this "caution," that human dimension of conflict is fundamentally important and far too easily dismissed. War has a real effect on the people who fight, and few mediums are as expressive of that effect as film. Sincerely, Chris Schultz BA Film Studies, MA History Carleton University, Canada Chris Schultz <firstname.lastname@example.org> ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----