War… and Cinema

By Sammy Blount, translation by Cor. C.


Since the first times of cinema, war has been a recurring subject for movie makers, from early 20th century pictures on the American Civil war to nowadays productions on Iraq war. The production is so important I am sure you have more chance to buy a winning lottery ticket than to find a single person who never saw a war movie. Of course, it would be absolutely impossible to fully cover the subject here. It is not the intention indeed. Instead, I would like to focus on a particular aspect of war movies which always stroke me and even sometime made me feel uncomfortable.


Source: American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood – 2015

Some war movies do not focus on the war itself, but more of the depiction of the reintegration of veterans. Inevitably, the return to civilian life rarely comes without troubles for the former soldier and its family, friends or relatives. A good example of the type of movies is the recent “American Sniper” by Clint Eastwood, in which navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle finds out that even back home he cannot leave war behind him. Another one is “The Deer Hunter” by Michael Chimino. In this film the life of a group of Russian American steel workers from the Ohio is disrupt after three of them go to Vietnam to fight for the US army. I would like to focus on this film, because it contains a few scenes which will illustrate the aspect I was mentioning before.

Now let’s come to the point and to do so, let me ask you a question. Have you ever felt strange when in a war film a soldier is asked a simple question and he does not answer, is not able to answer or just takes an usually long time to answer, presumably because of the damages war made on him? These non-answers can take different form of course, but I think they all have the same root. The soldier fought and saw what war really is. It shocked him so much that just a simple questions can sometime be overwhelming. The situation seems to create a distance between the two characters that cannot be overcome. The result is often a scene where the camera is filming a soldier who may seem elsewhere. Actually it is difficult for me to understand what the soldier is feeling, because, fortunately, I have not fought a war myself. Nevertheless, I always end up thinking: “Goddam it, answer the bloody question, at least say something”. But nothing comes or maybe just or word or two.


Source: Deer Hunter directed by Micheal Cimino -1978

In Cimino’s picture, the first such scene happens when Michael, Nick and Steven (the three future soldiers played by Robert de Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage) find themsleve at the bar of Steven’s wedding. A green beret is stting on his own at the bar and they offer him a drink. While they congratulate the green beret for fighting for America, his only reaction is to say “Fuck it” after a long silence. Later in the movie, Nick finds himself in an hospital in Saigon after he escaped from the Vietcong. A man comes and asks him a few questions. In the beginning Nick answers, even tough it feels as if he is not there. The last question, Nick is not able to answer and starts crying. Finally, at the end of the movie, Micheal goes back to Saigon to bring back his friend Nick who stayed there. He finds him and when he manages to talk to him, Nick does not recognize him. He is not the same anymore, he stares at Nick like he was a stranger. There are other similar scenes in the movie and in other war film as well. These are not specific to “The Deer Hunter”. But Cimino uses this effect at several moment in his film to each time express what I feel as a distance between a veteran and the others. I always have the impression these silences are lasting hours.

Of course, what I am describing here is subjective and someone else might see it differently. But, if the aim of a war movie is to make the specator feel what is going to war (or in this case coming back from it), then I guess the goal is reached. It genuily gives me the ackward impression of someone who is elsewhere and will never come back. It might sound silly, but, as a conclusion, I just would like to come back on a largely accepeted commun sense: a discusion is always better than a fight. Probably because, after a fight, it can become difficult to talk…




從電影史上的早期時代開始, 戰爭一直是電影製作時反覆出現的主題。說實話, 我敢肯定, 比起找出任何一個從未看過戰爭電影的人, 倒不如比你買張樂透中獎的機率還來得較大些。我不敢說我會在這篇文章中涵蓋全面的主題範圍, 然而, 我的初衷只是想專注於戰爭片的特定方面: “士兵的歸來”。其實, 我會為那些退伍的軍人在這種情形下感到身心不適。


Source: American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood – 2015

就像我所說的, 有些戰爭片不注重在戰爭本身, 他們更多注重的是那些退伍軍人重返社會後的描寫: “士兵的歸來”。不可避免的是, 回歸平民社會的生活幾乎總會為退役軍人及其家人、朋友或親戚帶來麻煩。對此戰爭電影有一個很好的例子就是近期的”美國狙擊手(American Sniper)”, 由克林·伊斯威特(Clint Eastwood)所執導, 其中描述海豹突擊隊的狙擊手克里斯·凱爾(Chris Kyle)發現即使回到了家園他仍然無法將戰爭拋諸腦後。


我還可以另外補充一部: “越戰獵鹿人(The Deer Hunter)”由導演邁克爾·西米諾(Michael Cimino)所執導。在這部電影中, 一群來自俄亥俄州的美籍俄裔的鋼鐵工人, 他們的生活因為其中三人為了美國軍隊到越南作戰而被完全破壞。請允許我把重點放在這部電影上, 因為它包含了幾幕場景演示了我先前的說明。 首先, 讓我問你一個問題: 你有沒有在看戰爭電影時曾經歷過一種奇怪的感覺, 當一位軍人被問及一個簡單的問題但是他沒有回答─我的意思是─他沒有能力去回答或者他只是需要很長的時間才能回應… 據推測, 這是因為戰爭在他身上造成的傷害。這些非答案的答案當然皆可以採取不同的形式呈現, 但是我認為他們都基於著同樣的原因。這名軍人上過戰場並且看過戰爭到底是怎麼樣的。戰爭是如此令人震驚以及受創, 如此一個簡單的問題有時候可能會讓軍人覺得難以承受。當這種情況發生在電影中的場景時, 它似乎建立起兩個腳色間不能克服的隔閡。大多數的時候, 由視覺效果來呈現軍人受到的創傷, 是由攝影機拍攝士兵, 這樣我們就可以由肉眼看出他迷失方向的觀感。其實, 對我來說這樣我很難理解士兵的感覺, 因為, 你可以想像, 我從來沒有參與過戰爭。不過, 最後我總是會思考: “該死的! 回答他媽的問題! 至少說些什麼吧!”但是, 他始終沒有回答或者只是簡單的帶過一兩個字而已。 在西米諾(Cimino)的電影中, 第一個如上述的場景發生在, 當邁克爾、尼克和史蒂芬 (三名分別由勞勃·狄尼洛Robert de Niro、克里斯多夫·華肯Christopher Walken和約翰·薩維奇John Savage飾演的士兵) 為了史蒂芬的婚禮他們在酒吧碰面。有位”綠色貝雷帽”(指稱 美國陸軍的特種部隊) 正坐在吧台前並且他們請他喝了一杯。當他們為那位”綠色貝雷帽”祝賀他為美國軍隊所服務時, 他的唯一反應是 在相當長的一陣沉默後…只說了句: “他馬的(Fuck it)”。在電影後半段, 尼克從越共手中逃脫後, 發現自己身處在西貢的一所醫院裡。有個男人上前來詢問了幾個問題並且尼克開始回答這些問題。然而, 對於最後一個問題, 尼克沒有辦法給予答案而且他開始哭泣。最後, 在電影最後段, 邁克爾又回到了西貢, 將待在那裏的他的好友尼克帶回。他發現他並且試著與他(尼克)說話, 而尼克竟不認得他(邁克爾)。尼克已經變得不一樣了: 他盯著尼克像是盯著陌生人般。在電影中有其他類似的場景, 而這是在許多其他戰爭電影中常會見到的景象。這些都不是特別只有出現在” 越戰獵鹿人The Deer Hunter”裡, 但西米諾Cimino在他的電影中數個場景利用這個效應, 來表達每一次我的感受: 戰爭在退伍軍人和其他人之間創造了距離。給我的印象總是, 那些沉默的片刻總是持續了數小時之久的感覺。

當然, 我在這裡所描述的純粹是很主觀的, 可能別人會有跟我不同的看法。但是, 如果拍攝戰爭片的目的所想要表達的, 是讓觀眾感受到什麼是戰爭(或者在這樣的情況下 從戰場上歸來的感受是怎樣的)。那麼, 我認為這目的已經達到他所想要表達的。這讓我真的有一種奇怪的感受是, 從來沒有人從戰場上歸來過。這聽起來可能很傻, 但是, 作為一個結論, 我只是想回歸一個普遍被接受的道理: 討論總是比戰鬥來的好。大概是因為,在戰鬥過後, 會讓人變得難以再次開口吧…