Cult Column

War is an obsession of cinema; the big screen relishes it, and audiences flock back time and again to watch films about conflict.

Whether it is aspirational teens, infused with military endeavour or a more aware, solemn adult audience, whether World War Two, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, war is a constant in Hollywood.

There is nothing new about this, this is no great or sudden realisation. However there is something rather profound that has been happening over the last few years in war cinema; there has been a very clear change in direction, a change in how cinema is used to portray elements of conflict.

Let us begin with the 1950’s and the 1960’s; heroic acts of the very recent war are brazen across cinema screens, dialogue is snappy, wit is in no sort supply and the writing is based on comedy and good humour.

The films are about remembering the acts of our brave fallen soldiers in the most momentous moments of the second world war.

The Bridge on the River Kwai will be, as its’ trailer boasts, marvelled at for the ‘humour of its’ story’ and for the ‘courage of its fighting men’.

Disillusionment with war is heavily represented in later films, especially films about the Vietnam war.

The dirty war becomes a dirty cinema outing, with dark tales and morbid stories about the struggles of a complicated conflict, where there are no straight lines or clear cut decisions.

Apocalypse Now provides one of the more bizarre stories, reflecting the larger nature of the war in the microcosm of its plot line, leaving the audience as bewildered as the soldiers represented in the film.

War is gritty, dirty and seldom uncomplicated and it seems that Hollywood has become aware of this fact in the years surrounding the Vietnam war and those following it.

More recent films have carried a greater punch because of this new found realisation; hard hitting cinema about a hard hitting topic- it just makes sense. Saving Private Ryan remains exemplary because of its opening twenty minutes; a scene which opened eyes to how war could be shot.

The development of the war film that focuses solely on mental health is a relatively new growth however. This is a cause which needed picking up on and has been met with excellent results.

Jarhead presents the soldier who has no cause and is disillusioned with the one that he is forced fed, giving the audience one of the very real but relatively unheard of problems that face the armed forces; soldier mental health.

Hollywood has changed how it presents war in motion picture. Away from the ‘up and at them’ attitude of the older days towards a darker, more stirring adaption, that not only focuses on physical conflict but on the very real mental conflict that surrounds war.

                               

Rupert Radley

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