War Films Basics Expolosive action sequences Superhuman feats of bravery Displays of mass distruction Hellish no-man’s land of violence and death Slightest actions can end in death (own or of friends) Life is lived moment by moment
Morality Laws, beliefs, behavior and morality are suspended Not just permitted to kill, characters must kill Might makes right and the ends justify the means mentality Good guys (usually “us”) fight fair Bad guys (usually “them”) torture and kill innocent civilians Good guys break the rules for moral or compassionate reasons
Group Goals Traditional Hollywood films focus on the individual War films focus on the group Needs of the individual give way for group needs Individuals will do whatever it takes for the good of the platoon, squadron, division, etc.
Gender roles Women roles are infrequent Women threaten male roles by introducing emotion – man’s essential vulnerability Psyche of male soldier reshaped to repress feminine traits – must be ruthless, unemotional, fighting machines – in training often refered to as “ladies” Machismo is presented as the key to survival on the battlefield
Back from the front Focus on the difficulty of returning to “normal” life WWI and II this was shone as possible Vietnam changed this idea – more traumatic – overmasculinization of soldiers Showed uncontrollable potential for rage and violence Some showed as vulnerable due to disabilities and injuries Others shown as becoming outlaws or social outcasts
Propaganda Key in shaping public opinion Antiwar films kept US out of WWI for an extended time Once war was declared by US in WWII, films changed to give explain why it was essential After Pearl Harbor, the govt. Office of War Information (OWI) created the Bureau of Motion Pictures to review scripts, sit in on script conferences, and make suggestions Hollywood and OWI claimed there was no govt. censorship
Education for soldiers Classic films showed “why we fight” Vietnam reversed this Film often questioned reasons for vietnam Showed war as hell rather than glorifying and rationalizing it
Race and ethnicity Cinema displayed war as the great equalizer All soldiers worked together Armed forces not integrated until after 1948 Black soldiers served as segrgated groups under white commanders in WWI, WWII, and Civil War
Modern examples Vietnam created desire to explain the war’s outcome and even rewrite it Films showing rescue missions of POWs became popular redemption Approach to combat as a source of personal trauma Toll of war on soldiers and their families – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Videos shot from the soldiers perspective (phones and web footage)
Overview War films mediate our relationship with war Help us prepare for war Reconcile us to victory or defeat Adjust us to the aftermath Inspire us to fight Inspire us to protest Explain why we fight/why we shouldn’t
African Queen 1951 John Huston In Africa during WW1, a gin-swilling riverboat owner/captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.
Apocalypse Now 1979 Francis Ford Coppola During the U.S.-Viet Nam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe. Warning – This is rated “R” because of graphic violence, extreme language, and drug use
Tora, Tora, Tora 1970 Richard Fleischer A dramatization of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the series of American blunders that allowed it to happen.
Black Hawk Down 2001 Ridley Scott 123 elite U.S. soldiers drop into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.