The real Platoon(8): Ritual in the Films of Willem Dafoe

25 05 2008

Quote: The dope-smoking, swearing Sergeant Elias of Platoon (1986), based on an actual man of the same name whom Oliver Stone had met during the Vietnam War and come to regard as a mythical figure, is a symbol for the conflicting views on the war that divided Americans. In the screenplay Stone provides Elias with the natural sense of grace, the charismatic power and the dignity of a heathen god at one with his surroundings.* Rejecting human-made moral principles, Elias aligns himself with the natural elements: The stars … there’s no right or wrong in them, they’re just there. And yet the character Elias is complex enough also to symbolise hope and the search for truth and meaning in life as expressed in his spiritual bond with Stone’s fictitious counterpart, the narrator Chris. Elias’ death is ambiguous in various ways, not least because of the stylised pose of his body as he seems to be coming after the rescuing helicopter. Kneeling and arms raised in the air while he is shot at from behind, the gesture could be one of supplication or of resignation.

* I wonder if the author has an idea how much “mythical” Elias was in Break. But caution is needed by creating a picture of the real person based on those very sparse information. Since the information about Juan Elias started to spread I can see a tendency to take those hints for granted facts.



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