Friday, March 05, 2010

The Killing Fields

"Cambodia...the war in neighboring Vietnam burst it's borders... In 1973 I went to cover this side-show struggle as a foreign correspondent of the New York Times. It was there, in the war-torn country side... that I met my guide and interpreter, Dith Pran. A man who was to change my life in a country I grew to love and pity."

This film is not Platoon, it is not Rambo, it is a love story, but it is about war, well at least the effects of war. As the above quote outlines, the Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodian borders and the government of Cambodia, after the War ended, entered a civil war with the communist regime Khmer Rouge. This conflict was bloody and the KR took over Cambodia and committed acts of genocide in the country for decades. As the title indicates, there were literally fields piled high with the bodies of Cambodian nationals, alas killing fields. But this film does not deal directly with the take over or the killings, but the close relationship between two men, an American and Cambodian reporter. The reporter, Sydney (portrayed exquisitely by Sam Waterston) does in fact fall in love with Cambodia, but after his Cambodian friend and fellow reporter, Pran, is captured, he returns to America.

Sydney wins an award for his coverage of the Cambodian conflict. He also searches for Pran via humanitarian organizations. But, that is all he does, he makes phone calls. Was it really love that Sydney felt? Or was it merely altruism masked by empathy; empathy which slowly dissipated within the confines of the opulent American borders? This draws a parallel to our modern fascination with throwing money at foreign problems, further underlying the severe problem with empathy. A photographer who was with Sydney in Cambodia even belabors him on this fact, and begs the question, was Sydney using Pran as a means to a successful end?

Sydney admits that Pran only stayed in Cambodia because he asked him to, because Pran had the opportunity to leave, along with his family. This movie is stirring because makes one wonder if any act is stripped of self-interest. Are we all, even if on a subconscious level, primal beings concerned solely with our survival? At any rate, Pran survives and escapes; Sydney returns to Cambodia and they are reunited, Pran stating that Sydney has committed no wrongs. I make one contention with this film and it is with the ending, the almost picturesque image, a neat bow on a very messy package: Perhaps Sydney really did fall in love with Cambodia, maybe not. Regardless, this film poses many ethical questions and acts as an almost epilogue to the many Vietnam centered movies of the era.

Perhaps I'm too cynical. Perhaps John Lennon was right:

1 comment:

Vladigogo said...

A powerful movie.