End of War: War Culture

Thursday, March 22, 2012

There's no free dishware, but Nighthawk Cinema features dinner and a movie all under the same roof. There's no free dishware, but Nighthawk Cinema features dinner and a movie all under the same roof. (Pedro Feria Pino)

Denis O'Hare, actor and co-writer of An Iliad, Jeanine Basinger, chair of the film studies department at Wesleyan University, and Clive Thompson, contributor to The New York Times Magazine and columnist for Wired discuss representations of war on stage, in film, and in pop culture--and whether these representations can change the culture's view of war.

Comments [22]

Rita Riccola from Auckland new zealand

War! What is it good for? Absolutly nothing.War is the search for power and supremacy as a replacement for a lack of contact with love inside the body. The boom boom and fireworks and hurting others is a projection of the loss of contact with the effervescent, sensational feeling of love that is deep inside the body and said to emanate from the heart, the core of our being. Our minds have been colonised by all media and our most real life experiences are often are lived through films, songs, words replacing the very real sense of the deepest,mysterious, softest, sweetest love that lives inside every single body born.We search for clues to make contact with love inside through all media- to feel something, so removed from the sweet sensation of simply being alive in a body, on the earth in this rare and wondrous experience called life. It's in there right now, at this very moment but the thinking, over stimulated mind is so crowded it has lost touch with the feeling of love. War exists because humans have forgotten to make love rightly and connect at the deepest level with the love that lives inside all. It is covered over,behind the armour of thought and intellect. War is the sad display of impotence and the inability to love all life.

Mar. 28 2012 03:29 AM
Gin from West Milford

Oops... Regarding my previous comment on March 22, I confused my Vietnam war movie titles. I meant, of course, The Deer Hunter.

Mar. 24 2012 07:15 AM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, No wars, please. Look what happened to/because of the war to Sargeant Bales. Eugenia

Mar. 23 2012 05:23 PM
BJK from Queens

I tried calling in put it was too late in the show.
The scene you aired from Private Ryan was misidentified. This scene comes early in the movie, and depicts George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, informed by his subordinates, that three of Private Ryan's brothers have been killed in action in the last few days.
They are questioning whether it could be possible for the army to find Ryan and pull him out of action, to spare his mother the possibility of losing all her sons.
You hear Marshall reading a letter he always keeps handy, which is President Lincoln's condolence letter to a mother in Boston who lost all her sons in the Civil War.
The last sentence Marshall says to his quiet subordinates is this:
'the boy's alive, and we are going to get HIM the HELL out of THERE'.
It is Marshall's order which forms the basis of all the actions Hank's undertakes with his search platoon for the rest of the film, as most of the group is shot and killed, one by one, including Hanks in the end.
His last words to Ryan, who makes it out of the last assault alive (and who makes that pilgrimage to the Normandy cemetery at the end of the film with his family) are 'Earn it!'

Mar. 22 2012 12:08 PM
Marcelo from Bridgewater, NJ

Actually the voiceover clip from the end of saving private ryan is a reading a letter which in the film would be written, read and signed by George C. Marshall, if I am not mistaken...

Mar. 22 2012 12:07 PM
paul from Harlem

Check out the documentary, "Apocalypse". It's a doc of WW2.The last segment explains how the U.S. rebuilt the devastated countries. Contrast with Iraq.

Mar. 22 2012 12:03 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I think part of the problem is that most war movies/plays/etc. are about the people doing the fighting & too few are about the people who live where the fighting is happening (or lived there & were displaced) & had armed men show up one day & start shooting or bombing. We hear about PTSD in soldiers (& we should) but hardly ever about PTSD in civilians where the war is fought--or even in the soldiers of the other side, who may not have had a choice about being sent to war.

Mar. 22 2012 12:02 PM
Gail from Brooklyn

Thank you for mentioning (even briefly) the significance of the Hunger Games! I'm disappointed that the PR for the film has been all E! News and mall tours...I hope that the books and films can yet create a space for young people (and all of us who enjoyed the books, really)to think seriously about the important themes within. Poverty, war, police brutality...the list goes on and on.

Dystopian novels offer us insights on the world in which we live..what happens when we realize that Katniss and Rue live here in the U.S.?

Mar. 22 2012 11:58 AM
Susy from Manhattan

The movie that made me see war most clearly was actually Children of Men. Though it was technically a sci fi movie, and an imaginary scenario, the war scenes were the most terrifying I have ever seen on screen. They were very real, and the sound engineering really made you feel as if you were there.

The concept of the film - a world where there are no more children, where women have ceased to be able to give birth, put a pall over the whole thing that was incredibly dreadful and frightening.

Mar. 22 2012 11:54 AM
Chabannes Gilles from manhattan

Your discussion ignores the fact that that modern warfare in the U.s. is always remote . The experience of your home no longer being a refuge and terror without end is not part of the contemporary american experience.
It only is the purview of the military combatants , the civilian population has no clue. any media representation therefore is always a remote representation of a remote experience.

Mar. 22 2012 11:53 AM
Gin from West Milford

Even as a little kid the concept of war terrified me, despite the fact that every male in my family has been engaged in one war or another. My brother is a Vietnam veteran, and I vividly remember the tension and fear in our house while he was there. Years later I saw "Apocalypse Now" in a theater, and when the scene changed from life in everyday Pittsburgh to the violence of Vietnam, I experienced a visceral reaction, and considered leaving at intermission. Only then did I 'connect', however slightly, to the reality my brother had lived. I stayed for the rest of the movie, however, but I felt very queasy throughout.

Mar. 22 2012 11:53 AM
Ed from Little Italy, NYC

"War" involves many activities, some might even be interesting and fun. "Combat" is what can't be captured on film: It's confusing and terrifying.

Mar. 22 2012 11:49 AM
Carter from Bronx, NY

Agreed, re: the book "None of Us Were Like This Before." Actually what I found so interesting about it was the way in which people - senior officials and ordinary troops - bought into fiction & myths (i.e., "cultural representations of war" as Brian keeps saying) SHAPE ideas about violence and torture. It's an incredible book, and intersects directly with Jonathan Shay's book, "Achilles and Vietnam."

Mar. 22 2012 11:49 AM
Cassandra neyenesch from Williamsburg

my 11th grade history teacher had us watch Gallipoli during our unit on WW I. Watching Mel Gibson die certainly brought that war home to me more than any text book could have! I've always had a good grasp of trench warfare because of that.

Mar. 22 2012 11:49 AM
Russell Christian from South Orange, NJ

I saw Platoon when it first came out and was still able to be shocked by the killing of the Vietnamese villagers. In the audience there were some who cheered on the gruesome spectacle and that is something I will never forget.

Kubrick's Paths of Glory maybe shocked me more than most war movies portraying as it did the court marshalling and execution of men both good natured and guilty only of not understanding why they were supposed to jump in front of the cannons to almost certainly die, and the utter stupidity and arrogance of their superiors.

Mar. 22 2012 11:46 AM
Arthur from Astoria, NY

This discussion would not be complete without "Achilles in Vietnam" and "Odysseus in America" - have either of the interviewees read these books by psychiatrist/PTSD specialist Dr. Jonathan Shay?

Mar. 22 2012 11:43 AM
robert from Long Island

I was always very gun-ho, patriotic, carefully engaged in heroic behavior... after I watched the Longest Day and the Bridge on the River Kwai, in the early 60's. My view totally changed with Black Hawk down and even more with Saving Private Ryan, especially when a combatant goes back to pick up his own arm that had been blown off.

Mar. 22 2012 11:41 AM
Trifoni from Brooklyn, NY

I keep meditating on the book NONE OF US WERE LIKE THIS BEFORE, which grapples with powerful homecoming themes for veterans - and also how movies, myths, and fiction inform our ideas about war and violence (in dangerous and revealing ways).

Mar. 22 2012 11:41 AM
Freddy Jenkins

There's this film out of Byelorussia (sp?) called "Come and See"--its signature sequence is the annihilation of a village by German soldiers in (nearly) real time. I think that any film that shows how average people's lives are disrupted by ruthless, random violence are more effective than any out-and-out combat film such as "Saving Private Ryan"

Mar. 22 2012 11:40 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Virtual wars in the form of video games are a GREAT outlet for the natural mostly male impulse towards organized violence whose roots are probably in our primate genes.

Mar. 22 2012 11:38 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Ed

I bet today you'd be more likely in the light of modern events to get a 10 million mass of people to kneel and shout,." We DON'T want God. We DON'T want God. We DON'T want God," because in the light of what has been going in the Middle East over the last few decades.

But regarding war in general, I hate WAR but love war-like military video games. Maybe video games will be the outlet for natural, mostly male warlike impulses.

Mar. 22 2012 11:36 AM
Ed from Larchmont

There's a very good movie called 'Nine days that changed the world' about Pope John Paul II in Poland in the early 1980s. There were 10 million people present/listening to the Mass in Warsaw's Victory Square, and the Mass was interrupted by people chanting 'We want God, we want God, we want God'. They say now that the Soviet Union was finished at that moment.

This is an example in our time of overcoming evil without war.

Mar. 22 2012 06:19 AM

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