FICTIONAL ANTI-WAR FILMS PROVIDE NEW TWISTS
Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan has been
nominated as the best film of 1998 in the category PEACE,
promoting the virtues of peace over violence. Ostensibly about
the heroism of soldiers who did their duty in World War II,
the film tells theater audiences that the combat of war is
hell, battlefield decisions made on the spur of the moment
can be brutal, orders from the top can be absurd, and the
good die young, physically and mentally. The cause may be
just, we are told, but the justification for war is simpler
when the aggressors are unjust. Interestingly, the contrast
of Steven Spielberg versus Oliver Stone is increasingly imprinted
on filmviewers as Saving Private Ryan goes on
to its redundant third hour-soldiers fighting for a cause
versus without a cause, GI heroes versus GI assholes, ethnic
solidarity versus ethnic discord, Europe versus Asia, etc.
Yet both agree that war is a sport of commanders with too
much power and with too little understanding of human suffering,
and they agree that the psychological wounds of war are never
quite healed in peacetime.
The second nomination in the category of PEACE is Regeneration,
a British film directed by Gillies MacKinnon and based on
the novel by Pat Barker. The film begins with a scene displaying
the squalor of the trenches of World War I and then focuses
most of the film on soldiers psychologically unable to continue
at the battlefront who were sent to an army treatment center.
than restoring the personalities of the soldiers and sending
them home, the aim of the center is "regeneration"-to equip
them to return mindlessly to battle. The methods of the center
vary depending upon the psychologist assigned to each patient-from
hypnosis to electroshock therapy to persuasion through dialog.
We learn that each soldier has valid reasons for wanting to
stay out of battle, and the treatment center achieves surreal
successes. Through the torture of electric shocks, at least
one soldier becomes immediately compliant, but the psychologist
who is our protagonist in the film clearly finds this method
barbaric; instead, he seeks to destroy the emotions and even
the logic that motivate those who have stopped fighting. Either
way, the objective is to strip patients of their identities
in order to get them to resume their duty as fighting machines.
All do indeed return to battle, mostly to die in utter futility,
so the film could easily have been titled "Many Flew into
the Cuckoo's Nest." War's dehumanization, in short, is triumphant
in this telling of Europe's Vietnam.
FILM SOCIETY INCORPORATES
The Political Film Society was incorporated under the laws
of the State of California on July 23, 1998. An initial business
meeting was held on August 4, and new bylaws
and rules of procedure were adopted. A website, where members
can become updated on the Society, is currently under construction.
YEAR'S NOMINATED FILMS
Four Days in September, Primary
Colors, Wag the Dog
Days in September, Regeneration
Boxer, Men with Guns, Regeneration,
Saving Private Ryan