The final entry in a trilogy of films produced for the U.S. government by John Huston. This documentary film follows 75 U.S. soldiers who have sustained debilitating emotional trauma and ... See full summary »

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The final entry in a trilogy of films produced for the U.S. government by John Huston. This documentary film follows 75 U.S. soldiers who have sustained debilitating emotional trauma and depression. A series of scenes chronicle their entry into a psychiatric hospital, their treatment and eventual recovery. Written by Kieran Kenney

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Documentary | War

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16 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Es werde Licht!  »

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1.37 : 1
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A controversial work at the time, this film was suppressed by the United States government for over thirty years after it was produced. See more »

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Narrator: However different the symptoms, these things they have in common: unceasing fear and apprehension, a sense of impending disaster, a feeling of hopelesness and utter isolation.
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Referenced in The Master (2012) See more »

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Disturbingly Provocative
12 June 2010 | by (Claremont,USA) – See all my reviews

Disturbing documentary that nonetheless raises a number of questions. My guess is that the film was produced for general circulation, to allay civilian fears of emotional trauma among returning vets. If so, that's certainly a laudable intent. For, as the documentary shows, many could be rehabilitated and returned to civilian life, despite the emotional wounds of war. In fact, the film conveys an optimistic tone throughout, as though eventual recovery is certain. That, plus the prologue assertion that no scene was staged, adds up to a generally reassuring note for anyone watching. After all, prospective employers need reassurance as well as family, while the last scene is as joyously uplifting as any Hollywood commercial contrivance.

As laudable as that intent is, I'm still left wondering how representative the film is of what we would now term "post-traumatic stress syndrome". For example, we know the scenes weren't staged, but we don't know how much editing went into the final cut. Nothing is said about editing in the prologue, and savvy viewers know how important editing is to creating desired effect. Then too, I'm wondering whether there was pre-sorting of vets according to severity such that we only viewed the mildest, most remedial, cases. For example, the one session of hypnosis and regression appears a quick and easy cure. It's good that some cases are open to such efficient methods, but, again, how representative is this one case. Moreover, as another reviewer points out, nothing is said about possibility of relapse, even among the mild cases.

My point is that we shouldn't draw general conclusions about this terrible affliction from one documentary that may have been geared toward another purpose. The fact that the army withheld release for 30 years shows how wary they became to exposing the public to even this most optimistic rendering of the problem. Those early scenes of afflicted men are simply too wrenchingly real to be forgotten, and should serve as a reminder the next time our politicians start beating the now incessant drum of war. Perhaps that's why the film was withheld for so long.


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