Sydney Schanberg is a New York Times journalist covering the civil war in Cambodia. Together with the local journalist Dith Pran, they cover some of the tragedy and madness of the war. When the American forces leave, Dith Pran sends his family with them, but stays behind himself to help Schanberg cover the event. As an American, Schanberg won't have any trouble leaving the country, but the situation is different for Pran; he's a local, and the Khmer Rouge are moving in.Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
The year the film was released, Time Magazine's Cultural Highs and Lows of the Year, had as the lowest point, 'David Puttnam's decision to use John Lennon's Imagine in The Killing Fields'. See more »
At the village of Neak Leung, a soldier is listening to Band on the Run by Wings. The accidental bombing of Neak Leung occurred in August 1973; the album Band on the Run was not released until October of that year. See more »
Cambodia. To many westerners it seemed a paradise. Another world, a secret world. But the war in neighboring Vietnam burst its borders, and the fighting soon spread to neutral Cambodia. 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 amidst the fighting between government troops and the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, that I met my guide and interpreter, Dith Pran, a man who was to change my life ...
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It must be impossible for anyone not to be affected by this film. Each and every component combines together to form not only a hard-hitting political statement, but also a focus on a deep and pure friendship.
Images of the injured, bloodied, distraught and destitute, leave lasting effects and obviously prove uncomfortable to watch sometimes, but they put us in the positions of the journalists who were stepping into the war zone of Cambodia at the time. In contrast, there is the compelling scene in which Sydney Schanberg plays video footage of Nixon blatantly lying about America's involvement in Cambodia and also shows Cambodians who have been injured by the fighting. While this still evokes feelings of sadness, it stirs up more angry emotions aimed at the dishonesty of the government, and, if looking at it from a wider perspective, most politicians. This is one of The Killing Fields' great strengths - its ability to make us feel a range of emotions throughout the course of the film.
At no point is there any attempt to glamorise the subject matter or try and put a Hollywood spin on it. For instance, when the group of journalists are captured by the Khmer Rouge and forced into the back of the tank, the close-ups show the sweat and fear on their faces in the near darkness, with no wisecracking lines or dramatic music, just the sounds of the tank travelling to an unknown destination.
The music moves away from the traditional sweeping classical score (apart from the hauntingly beautiful main theme) and relies heavily on synths and other electronic sounds. This actually works to great effect - possibly better than a classical soundtrack would - emphasising the confusion and fear of the people and the drama of the fighting. However it is John Lennon's Imagine, played in the final scene, that encapsulates the message of the film and provides a subtle yet powerful ending.
All the cast excel but it's Sam Waterston and Haing Ngor who particularly shine and make their characters' relationship seem completely believable. It would have been ridiculous to have asked Ngor to put any more into his performance, due to his own experiences under the Khmer Rouge regime.
To put it simply, you really must watch this film.
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