The films I chose to do my comparative paper on are The Green Berets and Casualties of War. Both of these films deal with issues concerning the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was viewed as unpopular and pointless by society; The Green Berets objective was to gain support for the Vietnam War. The film puts great emphasis on liberal war journalist George Beckwith (David Janssen). Beckwith originally doubts America's involvement in the war, but after spending time with the Green Berets, his attitude changes significantly. Casualties of War has a different perspective on the Vietnam War. The film is based on a real-life incident and it focuses on the emotional and psychological aspects of war. The film puts emphasis on Sergeant Meserve (Sean Penn) and how he is becoming changed by the savagery of war and his uncertainty on why the U.S. is fighting Vietnam. This is signifcant because it shows the evils of war and how it makes people change into something they are really not. Both of these films use light, sound, and color to express a variety of ideas for the audience. Editing also plays a key factor in these films to foreshadow what the films are going to be about. The Green Berets and Casualties of War express the Vietnam War in different ways and they persuade the audience to believe in the ideas that these films are promoting.
The Green Berets was made right in the middle of the Vietnam War. The government was looking for ways to promote this war. President Lyndon B. Johnson was extremely interested in making a propaganda film about the war in hopes of changing the opinions of naysayers. Johnson freely supplied Vietnam War consultants for the Green Berets to train the actors and help them speak the Vietnam language. (Yosarian, 1996). The film tries to persuade the audience to believe that this war is necessary. This is proven when the film focuses our attention on George Beckwith, who is a liberal war journalist. At the beginning of the film, Beckwith questions the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. As the film progresses, his views change. So what did The Green Berets and its success say about America during the late 1960s? Journalist Jack Mathews probably best put it in perspective when he wrote, "While trying to perpetuate the political rationalizations for the war, Green Berets' inadvertently laid bare the truth of our involvement. Our leaders, like Wayne, thought they were still fighting World War II" (Mathews 35).
Casualties of War is based on a real-life incident which occurred in Vietnam in 1966. Perhaps because of its somber story, it was not a success. Unlike The Green Berets, Casualities of War did not feature America's fighting men at their best. These were not men fighting for their beliefs, but rather, troubled souls who were more interested in cheap thrills than in the cause of world peace. The Green Berets is a story of a group of men working together to make a difference. Casualties of War is brutal reality of individuals trying to make sense of it all, who had, in many ways become as victimized by the war as the victims that were shot and killed. Casualties of War was not trying to promote a war movie. Instead it showed the evils of war and the effects it can have on people and society.
Now that we have covered the differences in social contexts of these two films, let's take a look at lighting. The Green Berets uses low-key lighting during battle scenes throughout the film. Since the film was trying to promote the Vietnam War, the film uses low-key lighting to perhaps not show the violence of a real-life battle.
Side-lighting is used really well in Casualties of War. This is shown when Sergeant Meserve (Sean Penn) and Captain Brown (Erik King) are talking to each other at the beginning of the film. Shortly after they are finished talking to each other, Sergeant Meserve saves Private Eriksson's (Michael J. Fox) life. So Meserve seems to be the...