Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day part 2

Subject: Cinema
"Letters From Iwo Jima" is Clint Eastwood's second part to his work on the WWII battle for that awful piece of rock in the Pacific. But this time, from the point of view of the Japanese soldiers sent there to die defending it.

The point of view is very likely skewed by an American filter. Okay, it probably definitely is. The martial fascist structure is a bit too personally hateful, and the typical drafted familyman soldier is a bit too everyman and innocent. But it's more indicative of the human condition than not, for certain. There are heroes and villians, for certain. And that spread isn't dependent on what side of the war they were on. The brief focus on the bad things that American soldiers likely did were evident, of course. And some of the nasty, desperate things that were done in the name of the Japanese Empire were omitted. But frankly, both were just aspects of what war is and what war does to us as humans. We suck in that situation. And it's important that we remember that whenever we're considering going there.

It's a lesson that seems abjectly absent in the decisionmaking behind current events, and it's pretty obvious that Eastwood is trying to say that here.

The movie itself was another series of character studies, and the dialogue was almost entirely in Japanese. There was a taste of Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" that lightly tread the line of dark comedy throughout, in that the everyman soldiers were in impossible and nearly absurd situations due to the rigid hierarchy and beauracratic structure imposed on them. Obviously it's meant to be compared to the sort of shark-like capitalistic propogandizing in the American side of the story, but this side was scarier and more threatening. But, it was made just a touch more accessable to allow for the possible connections to be made to the sort of nationalistic jingoism that was readily found in modern times here in the US of late.

The point was likely lost on those that needed to hear it, of course, because irony and allusion isn't particularly their strong suit. So I'm sure Eastwood was hoping that a glimpse at the lives of an "enemy", and the rhetoric around "enemy", in historical terms, in light of where this has all evolved after so many years now that we're staunch allies -- I'm sure he hopes that the message sinks in a little. The "enemy" is human too, even if we don't fully understand them or their tactics or their culture.

That point is likely lost on them too. In fact, I haven't heard much of anything from the particular loudmouths of that population about Clint Eastwood being a "traitor" or whatever. Maybe the films were just to vaugue for them. I suppose that's possible. They weren't entirely illuminating or profound beyond the basic messages. And like I said before, they were even a bit hamfisted in what they were trying to say.

But in the end, the real message is that war can only happen by using people to wage it, and those people are just like you and me. And no matter what you try to tie to the reasoning, there's always another side, and on that other side are more people. What you're told about them, what you assume about them, probably isn't particularly true or accurate.

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