Sunday, March 6, 2011

History And Twistery

The other day I watched a re-run of Oliver Stone's 1986 Vietnam War classic Platoon (with Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and quite a few other recognisable faces in cameo roles).
Every time I've seen this I've been struck by how, when Dafoe’s character Sgt.Elias is gunned down by enemy fire, he memorably throws his hands in the air as he collapses in death. You may be familiar with the scene: it was used to promote the movie.
There is history and "twistery" to this image.
History: It's a near-exact replication of a 1968 photo taken by Arthur Greenspon during the Battle of Hue, part of the Tet Offensive (the moral turning point in the war). We see a US paratrooper standing among his wounded comrades in the jungle, arms raised to the sky. It's been voted in the Top 100 most powerful war images of all time.
"Twistery": However it does not capture a split-second of death at all (although the movie director used it that way). The original shot was of a soldier raising his hands to guide a medical helicopter to a safe landing.
Everyone involved in a battle has his own different "version" of the same events but, on this occasion, Vietnam veteran/director Stone carefully constructed a Hollywood version that's ironically far more recognisable than the reality it's based on!

Oh, and the haunting instrumental under the end credits was not written for the movie: it is Adagio For Strings composed by Samuel Barber in 1936.
[For more on media manipulation of images, click here...]

1 comment:

Brandon Biggs said...

The dude on the jungle floor wincing in pain is my father...Tommy. anyone?