9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Daniel Yates from Montreal, Canada
24 August 2002
In my entry on "Hospital", I discussed the ethical issues surrounding
Wiseman's use of comedy to reflect a certain viewpoint. In that entry I
mentioned a seen in which hospital workers are shown dealing with a young
man who can't stop vomiting.
Another more complex and more disturbing case of Wiseman using comedy
to illustrate a point is in "Basic Training", Wiseman's film of a U.S Army
training center in Fort Knox, Kentucky. When we first see Private Hickman,
he is unable to keep in step during drill practice, while the drill Sargent
berates him. This scene is funny, but when we next see Hickman, he has
unsuccessfully tried to kill himself by taking too many sleeping pills.
Then we see him in council with the army Chaplain, who seems to completely
ignore Hickman when the Private tries to confide in him. Instead the
Chaplain accuses Hickman of "not really trying to get to the top." The
last time we see Hickman, he is being used in a demonstration of how to
sneak up behind an enemy and kill him by strangling him with his helmet
strap. What starts out as being awkwardly funny ends up being a painfully
sad example of the degrading nature of the military.
Is Hickman being exploited, or is it necessary to show his pain in
order to illustrated the sometimes harsh nature of the Army? Even if we
meant to sympathize with Hickman, are we seeing too much? It gets to be
horribly depressing, even though it makes its point strongly and clearly.
Now we are back to the question of whether it is right for Wiseman to
his own opinion into the film. It should be said that Basic Training shows
examples of new recruits being successfully trained, but is Wiseman being
ironic? After seeing Hickman, is it possible to feel good about any other
soldier being integrated into a system that could easily destroy a person's
spirit? Perhaps not, but should Wiseman be faulted for the fact that by
showing all sides, the side that shows the army at its most questionable
stands out in our memory and affects our judgment of the other scenes? Is
that not our own feelings about human worth taking over?
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