Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television

Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television

Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television

Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television

Synopsis

The Vietnam War has been depicted by every available medium, each presenting a message, an agenda, of what the filmmakers and producers choose to project about America's involvement in Southeast Asia. This collection of essays, most of which are previously unpublished, analyzes the themes, modes, and stylistic strategies seen in a broad range of films and television programs. From diverse perspectives, the contributors comprehensively examine early documentary and fiction films, postwar films of the 1970s such as The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now, and the reformulated postwar films of the 1980s-Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and Born on the Fourth of July. They also address made-for-television movies and serial dramas like China Beach and Tour of Duty. The authors show how the earliest film responses to America's involvement in Vietnam employ myth and metaphor and are at times unable to escape glamorized Hollywood. Later films strive to portray a more realistic Vietnam experience, often creating images that are an attempt to memorialize or to manufacture different kinds of myths. As they consider direct and indirect representations of the war, the contributors also examine the power or powerlessness of individual soldiers, the racial views presented, and inscriptions of gender roles. Also included in this volume is a chapter that discusses teaching Vietnam films and helping students discern and understand film rhetoric, what the movies say, and who they chose to communicate those messages. Author note: Michael Anderegg is Professor of English at the University of North Dakota, and author of two other books: William Wyler and David Lean.

Excerpt

The essays here collected testify to the unique relationship between the U.S.-Vietnam War and the images and sounds--on celluloid and videotape--that have been employed to represent it. Whereas World War II, despite all the cinematic treatments it inspired, found its most characteristic depictions in historical writings, memoirs, and novels, the Vietnam War, though it has produced a number of brilliant novels and nonfictional prose accounts, has thus far been given its imaginative life primarily through film. The most compelling statements about the war, for many people, have been The Deer Hunter (1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986), and Full Metal Jacket (1987). Significantly, except for the last mentioned, these films were made from original screenplays, and all were released after the war had ended. Cinematic representations, in short, seem to have supplanted even so-called factual analyses as the discourse of the war, as the place where some kind of reckoning will need to be made and tested. Even those for whom film can only be a tendentious and cynical product of American capitalism respond passionately to whatever it is they feel Hollywood seems to be saying about the war.

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