Tuesday, July 31, 2012

War Movies from Another View

Hey Everyone

Hope you all are doing well and that the summer has been going great. One thing I love about summer is that I have the time to watch some movies in my free time, both new summer releases and DVDs. What do you think of Dark Knight Rises? (I'm not giving away my thoughts here though)

I can bet that there's a good number of us who love watching war movies right?

As an effect of both history (who wins wars) and my living in the US, most of the popular war movies come from the US/Western perspective...which is not very interesting for me. Don't get me wrong, Saving Private Ryan and Patton are technical masterpieces, and I appreciate the daily sacrifices men and women give to the nation.

We cannot avoid the fact that victors write history, but would it be much more interesting be to see war from other perspectives? To deviate from the "Yeah Good Guys!" genre that celebrates heroism and valor under fire, explore what other nations have suffered and experienced in other wars, and perhaps gain a more complete perspective of the world today.

In today's post, I'll be sharing 2 non-US/Western movies that have impacted me and make for very insightful viewing. These movies are less well-known than The Great Escape, Platoon, and The Longest Day, but they are also well produced and directed, and show us the consequences of war from a very different perspective.

1) Blessed by Fire (2005)

Blessed by Fire (Spanish: Iluminados por el fuego) is a movie on the Argentine side of the Falklands War (or Guerra de las Malvinas). The film explores the aftermath of the Falklands War on Argentinian veterans, who experienced horrors on the battlefield and returned as broken soldiers after losing the war.

The film is centered on the experiences of two close friends who served as conscripts in the Argentine army, namely Alberto Vargas and Esteban Leguizamón. Vargas attempts suicide after suffering severe depression from the war and his financial insecurity, and Leguizamón cares for Vargas's distressed wife as Vargas is placed onto life support.
Leguizamon and his fellow soldiers taking cover from a British strafing attack.
Leguizamón relives his experiences on the Malvinas Islands (or Falklands), and the film presents a very bleak view of the war. The Argentine conscripts live in foxholes placed around the barren and cold island, and face hunger, boredom, freezing, abuse from superiors, and the psychological threat of invasion from British ships anchored just off the shore. Once the fighting starts, it quickly becomes evident that the Falklands is an unwinnable for the Argentines, as they face a force with superior training and materiel.
The guy second from right is the platoon commander and can be a real prick.
Although the Argentine soldiers face such gruelling hardship for their country, they end the war as losers and have little for consolation. A few empty words from a general and the symbols of the futility of their struggle come to the fore: discarded weapons surrendered to the British and burned out husks of military vehicles and camps. The ending scene for the war is a masterpiece. Blessed by Fire is highly recommended for its honest portrayal of war, and its depiction of the experience of the losing side questions the purpose of war (this time over the nationalistic rhetoric of the ruling elite).

2) Tae Guk Gi: Brotherhood of War (2004)

Tae Guk Gi is a Korean War movie titled after the pre-war flag of the People's Republic of Korea and current flag of South Korea. It covers the journey of two brothers (Lee Jin-tae and Lee Jin-seok) who are drafted into the Republic of Korea (ROK) army, and see themselves in the middle of a brutal war of ideology that has split the country apart.

The main plot of the film sees the two brothers come into conflict with each other due to different views. The older brother (Jin-tae) volunteers for deadly missions to earn a medal to get his younger brother (Jin-seok) discharged from conscription. However, Jin-seok vehemently protests to Jin-tae stay away from such missions in order to stay alive. This conflict ultimately sees them being fighting against each other in the opposing armies.

The brothers are conscripted into the ROK army and thrust into bloody battles.
Prior to watching the movie, I did not know much about the "Forgotten War" and Tae Guk Gi provided a rather realistic view of the war. The movie has a lot of bloody infantry battles, and presents morally ambiguous situations on the battlefield...from the treatment of PWs (who happen to be related to you) to the brutality of paramilitary militias.

ROK infantry advancing with a M4 Jumbo Sherman in the background.
While Tae Guk Gi may border on the sentimental and feature some skipping of the chain of command, it does an admirable job in presenting the historical context and emotional toil of the Korean War. A gruesome conflict that has pitted Koreans against each other, the Korean War unfortunately continues to go on without a conclusion in sight.

Have you seen other war movies that do not take the US/Western perspective? What do you think about them? There's a lot that I haven't covered (due to space), such as Letters from Iwo Jima, Schindler's List, Das Boot, and Days of Glory (Indigènes).

I do have to say that war movies can be rather depressing and can take away the sheen of the glory of war. An eye for an eye does indeed make the whole world blind (that's from Gandhi), and while we try to leave a better world for the people of tomorrow, shouldn't we also leave better people for the world tomorrow?


  1. One of the many war films I liked was "We were Soldiers". It did tell a grisly tale of the Vietnam war. And while it has a US patriotic theme, it still showed war as gruesome and horrible.

  2. I know one War movie that doesn't take the US/Western side perspective. Lord of the Rings..
    Epic battle scenes.. for sure.... LOL

    1. And while I know J.R.R Tolkien based his novel on WWII.....Don't correct me on that! :p

  3. Lol... Nice save you did there, Jiaqi.

    Josh, You have pretty much cover quite a lot of foreign films with regards to War.

    Correct me if I am wrong but there are many chines eproduction regarding the War between the Communist Chinese and the Guomintang (GMT). I think there was one acted by Jackie Chan.