Films and war Essay

What do people really get from war? Was it fame, peace, contentment? Is winning a war worth the sacrifices it asks from both sides? In a way once a country engages itself in a war it matters very little whose sides win for wars does not take sides. In the end even victors lose. No one really wins. Even if one country wins over the other in the end all the lives that had been lost could not be replaced even by victory. The grieving loved-ones could not be compensated by victory alone. The lost lives, the ruined country would produce scars on both sides of the opposing forces. No matter what you gain it is still not enough compensation for all the sacrifices that had been ensued. There is no such thing as human beings in time of wars for each side no longer see each other as humans who deserve respect. Thus, in the end war brings us nothing but misery and misery alone.

We Were Soldiers, Full Metal Jacket and Casablanca all shares something in common and it is the theme of war. We Were Soldiers was released in 2002. The said film tackles the Battle of la Drang which occurred in November 1965. The said Battle had been historic especially since it had been the first involvement of the American soldiers in the renowned Vietnam War. The film “We Were Soldiers” was directed by Randall Wallace and its lead character was taken up by Mel Gibson. The said movie was based on the novel written by Harold G. Moore and Joseph Galloway which is called “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young.”

The protagonist in the movie is Lt. Colonel Hal Moore. Lt. Colonel Hall Moore is a brave patriot who is very much dedicated to his troops. Wallace focused the film more on the preparations made for the Battle in Vietnam. Moore portrayed himself as a very dedicated and loyal man both to his troops and family. One of the most touching and memorable line uttered in the movie came from the speech made by Moore for his troops which go on as follows.

“I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive, but this I swear: I will be the first one to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead, or alive, we all come home together.”[1]

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Just from that line alone one could already have an idea of what kind of a man this Lt. Colonel Hall Moore is. He led his troops in the Battle of la Drang without giving prime importance to his well-being. We Were Soldiers is not Wallace first attempt at a war movie because Brave Heart and Pearl Harbor often go in association with his name. Basically, what Wallace wanted to show us on his “We Were Soldiers” is the horror of wars and why is war bad. He did a very good portrayal of this by showing its audiences closer look on what life is like on the field thus focusing a great deal on battle scenes. The war scenes had been so magnificently depicted to the point that those watching it could no longer stomach the fighting and thus left the movie house even before the movie is over. In this regard, Wallace was able to show his audience what he wishes them to see in a very effective way. Wallace allowed his viewers a full taste of the war by showing the battles up-close to the point that even the viewers feels what the soldiers felt during those times.

Wallace’s “We Were Soldiers” are basically made up most with battle scenes which are both realistic and violent to the point that you could almost feel the pain of the soldiers suffering on the screen. People may think that Wallace is a blood-thirsty man since a lot of fighting is constructed in a very hideous way. However, I think that Wallace have other reason for depicting the scenes violently. In a way I got the feeling that he wishes to convey to his viewers that war could never be a solution to any problem-that it brings its people nothing but misery. Although Wallace made the storyline in a kind of a shamble and the battle had been very confusing to the point that you no longer know who is fighting who I think Wallace still succeeded in bringing forth its main objective to show the people that war is bad. The film showed scenes wherein the wives of the soldiers are focused. It showed that it was not just the soldiers who were experiencing the hardship of war since even those whom they left behind experience the horror of war. Mothers, daughters, sons, relatives, all those people they left behind were gripped by the horror of wars and thus it clearly shows the people that war is indeed bad. Thus even though the story focused more on the lives of Hal Moore and Galloway (they are also the author of the book where the film was based) I think it could be forgiven.

There are films that show the American enemies in an evil light. However such had not been the case in “We Were Soldiers” because Wallace also showed that it were not only the Americans who are having trouble and who are affected by the war, rather he also showed the miseries of the Vietnamese as they tried to protect their country at the cost of their own lives. Thus, in a way, We Were Soldiers does not only talk about the miseries of the one side since it tackles the miseries experienced by those at different sides of the war.

Just like “We Were Soldiers”, “Full Metal Jacket” is film which is also based on a novel about war. The said film was based on Gustav Hasford’s “The Short-Timers”.  It was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. Also, just like We Were Soldiers the film also portrayed the happenings in the Vietnam War. However, Kubrick based Full Metal Jacket mainly on the lead character’s point of view thus in a way it is biased in that it merely shows things based on how the US Marines sees or experienced them. In Full Metal Jacket Kubrick tried to show us a view of the totality of war wherein one is no longer seen for what he is but rather for what he can do. Joker is the protagonist in this story and he is the narrator who guided us on one of his journeys. Although Joker is a little on the arrogant side Kubrick still made it a point that his audiences would also see him as someone who is righteous as well as someone who also feels for others as can be seen when he shot a dying girl right on her face so as to end her suffering. Kubrick divided the film into two parts. On the first part of the film Kubrick allowed his viewers an experience of what it is like to train under marine’s drill instructor. In a way Kubrick also showed his viewers that hardships do not happen on war sites alone, rather they also happened on training camps thus in a way, wherever you look at it war really have negative impacts on people to the point that the bad effects of war overrides the good ones. Kubrick allowed us in the second part of the film to experience war itself by portraying special effects, sounds and the like  which could enhance our feelings regarding war. In a way Kubrick’s approach is pretty brilliant in that he allowed an interaction between the two. However, the second part of the film had been portrayed in such a way that one would get to think that it is just one of those war movies. Kubrick did a much better job on his portrayal on what life is like on training camps as compared to his depiction of what life is like in the battlefield.

            On the first part of the film Kubrick showed us in terms of language used, actions, and the like how a drill instructor teaches the would-be marines how to be tough and hard as well as to let go of almost all of their humanities in the process. Kubrick even showed us that there is no room for soft hearted fellows in war thus they must all let go of their humaneness while they are still in the training camp. It is either you kill or you get killed. Such is the hard fact one must accept in going to war. Kubrick easily depicted that in war there is no room for pity as can be seen on both parts of the story.

In a way Kubrick portrayed the film based on what he thinks war is like and the pains, sufferings and the like one could get from it. Kubrick also supported the thesis that in war there is no humanity, even human beings are treated as mere objects one needs to bypass in order to achieve one’s own ends. Kubrick also showed on his film that in the end it does not matter what your goals are or what side you are in (dying Vietnamese sniper, Pyle, Hartman) because in the end was only sees human beings as an objects valued more for their utility. Thus in the end even those who did their best and remained true to their duty or even those who only wants the best for their country dies or falls in ruin. However, Kubrick did not limit the film to the sufferings one experiences with war. In a way he also showed that there are people who could not wait to experience war first hand. Rafterman for one is already tired of his work as a photographer and his hands are itching to pull the trigger as can be seen from one of the statements he made:

I hate Da Nang, Joker. I want to go out into the field. I’ve been in this country almost three months, and all I do is take handshake shots at award ceremonies. A high school girl could do my job. I want to get out into the shit. I want to get some trigger time. [2]

Usually movies made about war only portrays the hardships of those who are experiencing war in the battlefield and thus the main focus of the camera lenses were the battling occurring all throughout the film. However, Full Metal Jacket is not one of those films since Stanley Kubrick was able to portray both the hardships, the misery that the war brings not only to those soldiers who are in the battlefield but also to those who are around it. Kubrick was also able to show the sentiments of those who are suffering from the war and those who wants the war to end while still portraying the sentiments of those who wants to experience war their selves. This film showed that even innocent people could die in war, that even children and women could be killed by the opposite side. Thus, in a way, this film by Kubrick is almost similar to that of Wallace’ “We Were Soldiers” even though Kubrick made use of some lighter notes on his film as compared to Wallace.

Now, moving to the last movie included in this paper, one may think that Casablanca is nothing more than a film which revolves around the typical love-story setting. However, Casablanca is more than just an ordinary love story for it also tells us the commotions or rather the commotions war could have on people. Michael Curtiz is often remembered as the man who is hard to work with because he got one of those so-called nasty tempers. However, Curtiz perfectionism and temper may have helped him on his Casablanca. Curtiz is also known because of the diversity of his works and thus it comes as no surprise that Casablanca is an interaction of love-story and war story setting.

Usually a war film would not be considered as a war film unless horrible things happen to everyone such as non-stop bombing, killing and the like. However, Curtiz tried to minimize the violence on his Casablanca. There are still scenes where people are in commotion or people died however they are very minimal as compared to Wallace’ We Were Soldiers. In a way Curtiz focused more on the substance of the story, of the characters rather than to give his audiences the taste of what war is like. Curtiz showed his audiences how corruption still takes place on war to the point that even those in powers have their own price. As mentioned earlier Curtiz did not focused his scenes on the battlefield, rather he gave his audiences an idea on what it is like to be trap in a place where the ticket to a place who accepts refugees are hard to come by. Thus Curtiz gave prime importance in people rather than on battlefields. Michael Curtiz, also portrayed the film in a very straight to the point manner in such a way that the audience was able to relate to the film more without any hindrances present in other films.

I would give credit for Curtiz’s ability in terms of arranging the symmetry of the movie. There are even parts in the movies which were not quite clear such as the friendship between Rick and Renault. In the end of the film Ilsa and Victor left Casablanca with Rick’s help. Ilsa have other reasons for leaving Rick even though she still loves him and that is the pursuance of their idealism. Curtiz was also able to portray to us the fact that the movie gave prime importance to the ability of the characters to make their own choices and to live with it. Thus, even though Rick and Ilsa separated from each other at the end of the movie we could still see that it was their own choice that they made that particular sacrifice for the pursuance of their idealism. Thus, in a way, we could see that Curtiz also revolved his story on different kinds of patriots.

Just like “We Were Soldiers” Casablanca was also able to relate the horrors, the chaos, the unfairness war brings. The film also showed a great deal about corruptions and the cruelty war brings with it. For one, at the opening part of the movie a police mercilessly shoot a man simply because he does not have the documents necessary for his immigration. There are also scenes which showed the despair of the people to the point that they even entered into contracts with smugglers just to arrive in America. One of the most memorable quotes I liked in the movie was when Victor Lazlo was talking with Rick Blaine and Rick asked him about the reason why he is fighting, to which Lazlo replied:

You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die. [3]

Thus, seeing from that line alone Casablanca is almost the same as that of “We Were Soldiers” especially on most of their themes regarding war. The only difference however is that Wallace focused his film more on the battlefield whereas Curtiz focused the film more on people and their ability to make decisions and the like.

Now the three films all got something in common and it is war, along with the commotions it brings. I strongly believe that in war there is really no victor for all the things it brings is misery. It is particularly in regard to this reason why I like “We Were Soldiers” better than the other films because it was able to portray or to bring us closer to experiencing the hell life brings along with it. The two other films are also good but in a way, “We Were soldiers” was better able to capture its viewers in such a way that it was able to shove what war is like right into our faces. Basically, war takes something from its participants. Those who engages themselves with wars already fails to see what the opposing side really is. They no longer see their enemies for the person they really are as is seen on the movies wherein they slaughter each other as though they are not human beings who deserves respects. In war each soldiers were trained in such a way that they would not regret taking the lives of other people. It is either they die or the enemies die. Thus, in a way, they no longer see their enemies as people who deserve respect; rather they merely see their enemies as objects since they are objectifying them. They no longer treat their enemies as subjects rather they see them as an object who needs to be annihilated in order to survive. Thus, the essence of a person’s being is lessened in a war.

Torture, abuse, rape, these are only some of the aspects present wherever there is war for the side who has the upper hand often take advantage of their power to the point that they no longer give respect on human rights. War takes away a lot of things from people, from property, self-esteem, and so on and so forth. Even if the war ends and the so-called victors are already determined the effects of war still remains. In war there is really no victor, each side loses. Mourning families? They are common sites during and after wars. Young people, if they are lucky enough to survive war, must have to keep on living without the aid of a mother or a father because they all perished because of war. Losing someone we love is one of the most frightening things in this world. Even if there is no war and you happened to lose someone you love to some kind of tragedy, you would already be hard put to accept it. Now, try thinking of what it was like to have war. Thousands or even millions of people dies and consider its impact to the opposing sides of the war. We Were Soldiers was able to portray this particular aspects of war in a better light as compared to the other two films. Take the scenes of wars taken from the said movie. Seeing it in the movies could already make your heart ache, what more if it happens in you personally? Thus, war is never just. Certain scenes were shown about innocent people dying in war. A huge amount of innocent people suffer most whenever there is war. The losses of war do not limit to the buildings and houses destroyed, to the casualties and the like. War has a long time effect on an individual as can be seen below:

“…rarely do military establishments attempt to measure the costs of wars in terms of individual suffering… Psychiatric breakdown remains one of the most costly items of war when expressed in human terms. [4]

As can be seen above psychological defects are also present whenever there is war (this could also be seen on what happened with Pyle in “Full Metal Jacket”). Even after the war is long over the horrors it placed on its participants is still present and is unlikely to be healed. Those who experienced war often cannot let go of the trauma they have had during the wars. Some turned violent all their lives thus affecting their marriages as well as their children. Others had been greatly traumatized that they are afraid of letting others come close to them. Psychological disorders are not present on those who lose in a war alone because they could also be found on those who won the war. Thus, in this regard war really caused misery and hardships not only for the losers but for the victors as well which further supports my point that war does not really take side since it brings calamities to everyone it touch. It is more than the amount of money lost. The true effects of war does not really allow any side to win for survivors and losers alike experiences the side effects and trauma that war caused.

References:

Casablanca. 1942.

Killology Research Group. “Psychological Effects of Combat.” Psychiatric Casualties in War, 2000.

Full Metal Jacket. 1987.

We Were Soldiers. 2002.

[1] Randall Wallace, We Were Soldiers, 2002
[2] Stanley Kubrick, Full Metal Jacket, 1987.
[3] Michael Curtiz, Casablanca, 1942.
[4] Killology Research Group, Psychological Effects of Combat, 2000.

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