Levels of Brutality Depicted in War Movies

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Walter Smailus, Jun 11, 2002.

  1. Walter Smailus

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    There is a tendency amongst directors to try and represent the brutality of war as faithfully as possible. This can be seen in movies such as Enemy at the Gates, Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. Over the years the movies have gotten more and more realistic in their depiction of that brutality and the conditions under which soldiers fight. The question I have is how much more realistic can they get??
    Which each successive step in realism I leave that movie stunned from what I just saw. The director has achieved their desired result in depicting the horrors of war, which is good if that's what they intended.
    How much further can they take it though??
    SPR seemed to be a leap forward in that realism... so much so that I have no desire to see the film again after just one viewing.
    Short of adding smell-o-vision (I have read from veterans that one of the most horrible parts of battle was the smell) what else can they do?? It does not seem like they are holding back in what they depict nor should they if that is the point they are trying to get across. Is the audience going to continue to be shocked or just become numb??
    Just an observation. Flame away.
     
  2. Jesse Leonard

    Jesse Leonard Second Unit

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  3. Butch C

    Butch C Second Unit

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    The more realistic we can get in films the more someone might think twice before instagating an actual conflict. Or I hope so.
     
  4. Bhagi Katbamna

    Bhagi Katbamna Supporting Actor

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  5. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    I hold it a good thing movies using War as topic have become less romanticized, less appealing in terms of portraying War as something to be admired, enjoyed, and even relished in.

    I hold War a terrible thing. To remember Clint Eastwood from Unforgiven, "It's a terrible thing to kill a man. You take away all he's got, all he'll ever be."

    When I watch recent films that've shown War or War-like scenes (including Starship Troopers, Saving Private Ryan, and Black Hawk Down), I don't leave the theater thinking how cool it is. I never left any viewing pondering to myself it was a great thing, how neat and excellent. Instead, I was always gripped with sorrow to know such events, even as they shape such compelling stories, were truth or based in the horrors of the truth. I spent most of the battle sequences in SPR, and especially in the most recent BHD, rocking back and forth muttering "oh my God" under my breath at each new shock of destruction and causality. BHD was especially hard for me to watch as it is such a recent real event, with methods of War far more advanced than those used in World War II and the associated depictions of same we saw in SPR.

    Of course, I speak only for myself. I appreciate that today's storytellers have shirked the habits of some in the past, those that sought to present a very compelling and reassuring picture of War. I find nothing reassuring about the slaughter of humans for any reason, necessary though it often is throughout history and surely to come in the future. I don't consider it glorification when today's storyteller's use the latest and most refined techniques of makeup, computer imaging, and so many other tricks of the cinema trade to present what I've heard many real combat veterans hail as like to the Real Thing.

    I consider it factual. To tell a 'PG-13' tale of War is to leave only the aspects that fail to sufficiently frighten those who would embrace the act. Perhaps tellings of War tales that attempt to offer what combat veterans verify, that of the horrors experienced while under fire, is a good thing for those who have only such tales with which to form their opinions of such a terrible thing?
     
  6. Walter Smailus

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    Very well stated David and I agree with you whole heartedly. I certianly believe war should not be glorified. That Unforgiven line was one of my favorites because it is spot on.
    My question is is there a point where people will not be shocked and horrified by what they see? As the realism meter is moved higher, will people no longer be shocked and horrified by what once shocked earlier audiences?? This might leave directors in a bind. In trying to show audiences the horrible realities of war they are also having to present higher and higher levels of brutality to keep that shock value. Is there a catch-22 here??
     
  7. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Supporting Actor

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    David, well put.

    Walter, I understand your point and I've experienced instances where your point has been proven. I remember people laughing during violent moments during BHD when my wife and I saw it at the theater. I distinctly remember people cheering when the small helicopters were blowing people off the roofs of the buildings in Somalia. It was disturbing to me and I'm not sure that was the audience reaction Riddley Scott was looking for.

    It is one thing to laugh or cheer when the big guy draws the sword on Indy and he shoots him with his pistol in "Raiders." But I just can't be relaxed with the violence in BHD or SPR b/c it is based on real events! There's something to audiences "getting numb" IMHO.

    Peace,

    DM
     
  8. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Several people I have met considered BHD an action movie, and frankly, I was floored by that response. It was as emotionally wrenching an experience I have ever had.

    David's words were wise and true. As I stated in another thread, all realistic war films are anti-war. That is not to say that there are not causes worth fighting for - just that the price is much higher than most people expect.

    The quote I used was good, and I'll repeat:

    "I hate war, as only a soldier can hate war." - Eisenhower

    I appreciated the horrific nature of BHD and SPR, if only for their educational value. No doubt a lesser director would (and will) use this imagery for profit, but Ridley and Steven used it for more noble reasons. It hurt to watch, and I am glad it did.

    Take care,
    Chuck
     
  9. Jim DiJoseph

    Jim DiJoseph Second Unit

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    I think perhaps that a distinction must be made here. Movies based on actual events, such as SPR and BHD, convey the realism that was, the horror that could be if we do not learn from the past. Fictional movies, on the whole, are more entertainment-based, and thus viewed in a different light. There are exceptions, of course, but IMHO what we are talking about here is the feeling in our bones that these were real people and the things that they endured, the things that they did, move us immensely.

    For what it's worth, every time a director depicts an event with more realism, we, the audience, are better for it. When that event is war, or some other violence, we are uniquely moved. As an example, SPR hit me hard. Walter mentions that he most likely will not ever watch it again. That is a comment I understand well. Whenever I see that movie, I need to be in a certain frame of mind.

    Now, on the other side of the coin, there is a tendency for society to believe that we are growing "numb" toward the violence we see in the cinema and on television. I can appreciate "make-believe violence" for the entertainment value that it is. Heck, seeing the bad guy get it in the end of an action flick is fun. But when we speak of war movies and other treatises of real events, my mood is altogether different.

    That's just my $0.02, though.
     
  10. Rollo Lee

    Rollo Lee Agent

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    Any movie with sustained action sequences can and will eventually be watched as an action flick. SPR, BHD, whatever. People simply become desensitized to the violence and the emotional impact ebbs away upon repeat viewings. Then it's quite easy to watch it as well-choreographed & well-shot action porn. This is especially true for people who haven't been in the military or combat or that sort of thing. And DVD makes it easy to skip the "downer" moments. I imagine most of you know people who truly enjoy Full Metal Jacket & Platoon as entertainment.

    BTW, there are scenes in Black Hawk Down which were constructed exactly like any "bad ass" action sequence in a summer blockbuster. The night time Delta Force actions come to mind. So, it makes perfect sense that there would be people who'd treat BHD as an action flick.
     
  11. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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    I will say that BHD was the first movie I've seen that actually made me feel a little bit queasy, in one scene in particular. I won't reveal any details for those who haven't seen it, but let's just say that it involves a leg wound, a clamp, and lots of blood.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Walter Smailus

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    But are directors going to have a harder and harder time making a war movie that shocks people? As the SPR's and BHD's are released they have obviously raised the level. I still remember seeing Platoon when it was realeased and coming out stunned. I don't think I would be nearly as stunned if I saw it for the first time now after seeing Private Ryan. The humanity is still there, for which I thank Oliver Stone, but I wouldn't be as shocked or stunned by the violence as I once was.
    To what levels are directors going to have to go to keep shocking us with the horrors of war?
     
  13. Sam E. Torres

    Sam E. Torres Second Unit

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    i personally think the more graphic directors get these days, the more commercial and eventually purposeless the scenes become. that is not to say that i disagree with showing graphic depiction, but these days, it's all about topping the saving private ryan scenes, and it's just stupid if you ask me. i am also pretty embarassed to be a teenager, considering that i was told that in a film class in my school, a handfull of students, and the teacher, mind you, laughed in the d-day scene when the guy gets shot in the helmet and survives, only to take off his helmet and get shot in the head and die.
    . shit like that makes me sick.
     
  14. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Ever since Spielberg wowed the world with his Saving Private Ryan opening, other directors have gone a bit farther in what they'll show regarding wartime carnage.
    Spielberg was applauded because his brutal sequence was effective, and not because his effective sequence was brutal.
    Of all the recent war flicks, the only one that I think pulled it off successfully was Black Hawk Down...although I think one particular scene went a bit too far. (If you've seen the film, you probably know the bit I'm talking about.)
    Anyone familiar with me at all knows I love sloppy gore, but it's jarring (in a BAD way) when these war movies try to "top" the graphic carnage of the one before it.
    Case in point: Windtalkers. Lots of gore and screaming deaths; very little point.
     
  15. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    I agree that it is important to show War as it truly is and as it has been shown recently by soem very talented filmmakers.

    I feel that this should be done in films that have a chief purpose be to show that horror and be anti war. When the violence is intergral to achieving the goals of the filmmaker in affecting and influencing the audience then it is entirely appropriate and acceptable. When it serves a purpose to tell the story a specific way that enhances the impact of the story's themes, ideas, and messages then it is appropriate.

    However when the violence is gratuitous or meant only for shock value or entertainment and does nothing to serve the story, themes or goals of the filmmaker then the violence is trivialized and meaningless.

    to give an example: a film whose focus is understanding the character of civil war commander, suddenly going to a extremely violent depiction of civil war combat for a battle, and then have the horrors of the battle have no effect on the characters or story is meaningless and trivial. We come away maybe thinking that the civil war was very violent, or that the battles were 'really cool', but the fimmaker completely failed in his chief goal of examining the character of the commander because that never connected or reached the audience, they became numb to subtelties of character by the barrage of violence that completely overshadowed everything else in the picture.


    Think "The Patriot"

    And again sometimes brutality and savagry and primal ,terrible qualities of war can be conveyed in other ways other than showing a violent, bloody mess on the screen. Films such as Paths of Glory and others should not be forgotten for their creative, and just as impactful, ways of depicting the tragedy of war. I hope this creativity is not lost, because some scenes are not appropriate for young children, yet a seven year old can still comprehend that war is terrible and horrid by a powerful, moving film that chooses not to explicity show us extreme violence, instead of thinking it is somehow glorious and to be sought after.



    It's good to remember that sometimes 'there was too much violence' is an extremely valid comment. I hope that modern directors pursuit of realism that the other tools and power of surrealism, expressionism and all the rest are not forgotten and left behind.

    Adam
     
  16. Dave Miller

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  17. Ted Lee

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    hmmm...
    i think war movies can be both entertaining and educational.
    my girlfriend recently noted how much i enjoy war movies - everything from apocalypse now to glory to spr/bhd to band of brothers to full metal jacket. i don't have a lot of experience watching older war flicks such as tora tora tora, the bridge over the river kwai, the guns of navarone, etc.
    i do view them as entertainment...as action flicks.
    but everytime i watch them i think to myself how much i would hate to be in their shoes. i can't imagine the kind of sacrifice and pain those soldiers made. i can't imagine being so unselfish as to risk my life for my country. it takes a huge amount of courage to be able to go into battle - knowing that you may die. can you imagine watching your friend getting shot right beside you?
    i have an uncle who was in the vietnam war. i've often wanted to ask him about the war, but i'm told he never talks about it, even when asked - so i don't.
    war movies can be a great tool. it can entertain us, take us into the lives of soldiers, show us what it's like to be on the battle field, show us the technical and tactical nature of the military and....very importantly....to remind us of what we had to do for our country.
     
  18. Roger Kint

    Roger Kint Stunt Coordinator

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  19. Walter Smailus

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  20. John Spencer

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