Photos of Juan Elias (2)

4 07 2013

Found two other photographs of Juan Angel Elias on the web. HERE and HERE.

HERE is his name etched on The Wall. It’s a pity I didn’t know it all while visiting the Memorial in 2000.

And HERE you can find him on the Virtual Wall Veterans Memorial.


Photos at

10 04 2013

Photos made by OS himself.

One of them was used in the Discovery Channel Documentary I just mentioned. It snowballs again!

Discovery Channel Documentary

10 04 2013

The True Story – Platoon

Well, something really new. The film brings some facts together, Stone’s career in Vietnam, and also the background information like the battle of Firebase Burt.

For me the most “important” statement of the movie is that Stone never revealed the identity of the Barnes prototype. But there is more about Juan Elias, interviews and a never before seen photo of Young Stone from his time in the Air Cavalry.

Video on YouTube

Video on Smithsonian Channel

My review for IMDB from 1998

10 04 2013

I still get flashbacks of this movie.

D.Mason in the earlier [IMDB] comment wrote about the silence, while people were leaving the auditory. That’s what I remember too. And I remember faces of some viewers as they went out — looking as they were witnesses of some terrible accident. Never before and never after I saw such a reaction to a movie. It was spring 1988, and the theatre was in Poland.

Next thing I remember was my own flash of fear during the first jungle sequence, as if the tranquility of the scene was a prelude to some unbearable horror. I thought (like Chris Taylor pointed out in his monologue) that I’d made a mistake coming, not sure what I actually meant: the theatre or the jungle. For there was no screen, no auditory anymore. I was on the other side “humping the boonies”.

After the first viewing I was so overwhelmed by the emotional impact of Platoon that I didn’t really got the plot. I was just like Chris, not knowing what was going on, witnessing the civil war between Elias and Barnes, that seemed to have its roots somewhere in the past, far beyond the story told in the film.

For usually I’m not so eager to analyze what I don’t understand, particularly when it’s only a movie. But this time it was different. I just had to see it again. And again…

…to find out that beyond the apparent simplicity of the storyline, there is a huge space for interpretations. And the closer you look, the more you see…

Furthermore – what IMO makes “Platoon” to stand out among the most movies of the genre (back in the 1980s, but now even more) is the way of showing violence: it is not just an element of decoration here. It means something, one doesn’t want it to happen, no matter on which side the victim is. Or have you ever heard screams of protest in the audience after somebody was killed in Rambo?

I didn’t know much about the war in Vietnam back then, and couldn’t tell if Platoon was historically accurate. But for me the movie’s power lays not so much in the accuracy itself, but in the overwhelming IMPRESSION of authenticity. I never saw anyone of the cast on the screen before and it made the feeling even stronger – they were just anonymous faces in the midst of war and madness.

On the other side – not having much other information on Vietnam War than this movie, for a while I was near to believe it was the one and only, absolute truth about it. Now I know it isn’t. It cannot be, as Schindler’s List cannot be the whole truth about WWII, or Dead Ringers is not a whole truth of twins or doctors. Even though there are certain autobiographic elements, the story didn’t happen the way it is shown, and as far as I know, Stone never claimed it did. One can tell a good story or a true story – life is seldom dramatic enough.

In America Platoon still seems to divide people. There is so much arguing about it, charged with so extreme emotions that sometimes I fear, people would start to shoot each other if they had a chance… Which, ironically, underlines the movie’s statement about “the enemy in us”.

As for me: still, after 11 years, Barbers Adagio for Strings makes my heart beat faster. I can hear a crying child or helicopters flying by, and get a flashback of that very special mix of emotions the movie had triggered in me. Isn’t it enough to say this movie is something special?

Thought of the day

15 09 2008

Isn’t it strange that we (as: humanity) spend so much time and energy creating things that don’t exist? Whole industries are dedicated solely to the purpose of creating non-existent worlds. And then, other people come and analyze those non-existent stories and characters that populate them, treating them as if they were real.

But stories and life are not the same, even if some of us can see some story patterns to what happens in the reality. What drives us to do so?

Sidetracks: The Horror…

15 09 2008

Some interesting background bits regarding Apocalypse Now, from an article about Kok Ksor, the President of the Montagnard Foundation, Inc.

In one of the final scenes of Apocalypse Now Marlon Brando, tired of the war, gives direction to who was sent to kill him: “Go, and tell of the horror, remember the heart of darkness.” The multi-decorated Colonel Kurtz has to die because he does not obey the orders of the American General Staff: he has allied himself with an indigenous tribe and is conducting a personal war against the Viet Cong.

From the screen of a laptop, Kurtz/Brando is talking directly to him, to the Vietnamese who since 1975 travels the world to tell of the horror, the horror of then and the horror of now.

[The Montagnard people] were in the middle of [the war], and they saw everything, and they lived the horror to the end. “Yes, I saw it too” like Colonel Kurtz “piles of small arms of the children chopped off with machetes to terrorize the population, to convince them not to accept American help, not even for the Polio vaccination. (…)

At the beginning we did not want to take sides. But the Americans have used us: they allowed the Viet Cong to attack our villages, and for us it was almost impossible to defend ourselves. Then they promised that at the end of the war they would have helped us regain our independence. So we did take sides, and we have been the fiercest allies of the Americans. But not of the Generals or of the Politicians: of the soldiers, of the non-commissioned officers. For us it was people who had come to help us, had come to die of a country that was not their own. Yes, the loyalty of the tribe around Colonel Kurtz in the film is real. We are a very loyal people.

This lines bear certain irony, as the model role of John Wayne as the American super-soldier seems to be at least a little ambiguous (as stated here).


A great friend of ours was John Wayne, who came to us, at Pleiku, where the Fourth Infantry Division was stationed, to film “Green Berets”, that is the history of how for many years the American strategy has been simply to fortify our villages. I was 17 years old. In those months he lived with us, in the breaks of production he wanted that us kids took him to the jungle “to understand”. With him we built a special link. We gave him our sacred bracelet, a brass strip in the shape of an arrow, with the symbols of the animals we had sacrificed for him. He wore that bracelet until the last day of his life. Now I know that Francis Ford Coppola is also our friend: his movie is almost perfect in all the details when it tells about us.

Wikipedia on Kok Ksor

Platoon (1986) reviewed by Victoria Baschzok

14 09 2008

found HERE

The lady definitely didn’t get it. I wonder what movie she was watching…

cudz.jpg picture by alveni[Platoon] was made up of a young, naive and well-intentioned officer who commanded young, well-intentioned soldiers, including the naive hero, Chris. The source of power in the group was a blondish, pale, beautiful, gentle yet strong and wise sergeant. These people all believed in the American dream and saw themselves as victims of injustice. huh.gif picture by alveni The source of power in the company was also a sergeant – a senior staff sergeant. However, he was dark-skinnedhuh.gif picture by alveni, cynical, scarred and cunning. The first represented the American ideal; the second was the devil. To be more exact, the second represented a constant in American history – the traitor,  Benedict Arnold in modern dress, the man who believes that men of principle are weak, the force of evil within each person and therefore within the nation. His cynicism and crude interpretation of reality enable him to trick others into temporarily betraying the American dreamhuh.gif picture by alveni