The lovely light…

31 08 2008

The Ahab-Barnes reference:
Moby Dick CHAPTER 37: Sunset

This is the whole piece mentioned HERE

(…) The diver sun- slow dived from noon- goes down; my soul mounts up! she wearies with her endless hill. Is, then, the crown too heavy that I wear? this Iron Crown of Lombardy. Yet is it bright with many a gem; I the wearer, see no tits far flashings; but darkly feel that I wear that, that dazzlingly confounds. ‘Tis iron- that I know- not gold. ‘Tis split, too- that I feel; the jagged edge galls me so, my brain seems to beat against the solid metal; aye, steel skull, mine; the sort that needs no helmet in the most brain-battering fight! Dry heat upon my brow? Oh! time was, when as the sunrise nobly spurred me, so the sunset soothed. No more. This lovely light, it lights not me; all loveliness is anguish to me, since I can ne’er enjoy. Gifted with the high perception, I lack the low, enjoying power; damned, most subtly and most malignantly! damned in the midst of Paradise! Good night-good night! (waving his hand, he moves from the window.)  ‘Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all stand before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others, the match itself must needs be wasting! What I’ve dared, I’ve willed; and what I’ve willed, I’ll do! They think me mad-Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered; and- Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my dismemberer. Now, then, be the prophet and the fulfiller one. That’s more than ye, ye great gods, ever were. I laugh and hoot at ye, ye cricket-players, ye pugilists, ye deaf Burke sand blinded Bendigoes! I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies-Take some one of your own size; don’t pommel me! No, ye’ve knocked me down, and I am up again; but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags! I have no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!

Another dissertation based on a dissertation…

29 08 2008

Started to google “sickle-shaped scar” and found this:


From the Abstract:

Northrop Frye, in his Anatomy of Criticism, identified four main myths: Comedy, Romance, Tragedy, and Irony/Satire. These were essentially genres, each of which move through six phases. Frye believed a critic could simply organize literature into these phases to show that literature formed “an ideal order”  For each of these phases, Frye identified typical narrative structures and characteristics–primal myths with which humanity was and is consistently concerned. Comedy is the reconciliation of the protagonist with his community at the end, Romance chronicles what seems like a knight’s quest, Tragedy shows us a hero’s separation from his society, and Irony/Satire gives us the everyday difficulties and dissembling of life. (…) This dissertation has shown that the Anatomy of Criticism could categorize not only written literature but also 20th century film. Specifically, these Western films were matched to Frye’s Romance phases, War films to Frye’s Tragedy phases, Film Noir films to Frye’s Irony/Satire phases, as well as Comedy films to Frye’s Comedy phases.

From the Chapter Three:

Platoon is a “world of shock and horror” and a “demonic epiphany”. The most shocking thing about this world is simply the realization, as in Apocalypse Now, of how evil human beings can be, without checks and balances in civilization to restrain them.  Barnes is the one with the “demonic epiphany.”  Like Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, Barnes has realized that it is easier not to think about his actions than to endure the emotional pain of trying to confront moral problems.  Barnes simply does what he feels like he should do, even if that means killing many innocent people.  Elias has resisted the demonic epiphany of Barnes and Kurtz and remains willing to struggle with the moral ambiguities of Vietnam, although even Elias admits that he loves the moments where he can relax from his moral tension.  He tells Taylor, in a scene Avent Beck describes as “a quiet scene suggestive of Jesus and Peter in the garden of Gethsemane“:  “I love this place at night.  The stars … there’s no right or wrong in them.  They’re just there.” 

See? See? hardly I say something that I think is an original thought, it appears elsewhere written by someone else… Even if I don’t agree that Kurz stopped to think (reference).

Still have to read – maybe not the whole text, but at least more about the concept. As well as about the Northrop Frye’s Theory of Archetypes

Foreword to Platoon Script by Oliver Stone

28 08 2008

So I bought the book edition of Platoon’s and Salvador’s scripts for a good price, the first edition costs up to $100. 😯

The book looks slightly used and someone obviously worked with the Platoon script, comparing it to the movie, as the scenes are numbered and changes marked. There are also one or two small notes scribbled on the pages, but I haven’t deciphered them yet. 

I think I somehow hoped to find the initial version of the script, but it’s still the same version as the one that can be found online. Some new information can be found in the foreword written by Stone.


SCAN 1   SCAN 2   SCAN 3   SCAN 4


Still there was nothing about Break, or THE Platoon, or the development of the script as I hoped. 😦 Nor any details about the first run of scouting and casting… But there is more about the real sergeants than I expected.

Some of the lines were quoted in different reviews, now I can read them inside the right context, and from OS himself, so indeed I saw what Barnes was meant to be — a wounded human being, not a “cardboard satan” as many saw him. 

Tom Berenger is Sergeant Barnes, the Captain Ahab of the platoon. (…) Here I want him to play someone with evil in his heart, but play him with an understanding that will shed light on Melville’s line, ‘O this lovely light that shineth not on me…’ (read the whole piece) and from watching his coiled performance, I think many people at the end of the film will think he has been wronged by Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, and destiny.

This sadly didn’t come true, maybe it’s some flaw to the story that makes it visible only to few viewers as it seems. Or maybe it is hard to accept the humanity of the ultimate means, the humanity within a murderer…  

Sergeant Barnes was (…) Achilles, a warrior king in his own time. And I – this modern New York City boy who’d never really believed all that Homer stuff in school – was actually hauling his radio, the equivalent, I suppose, of driving his chariot. (…)

He never yelled at me but his cold, quiet stare withered and terrified me as no man has ever done since. He was the best soldier I ever saw, except, possibly, for Elias. One day he snuck up on two ‘gooks’ having breakfast and killed them, quick, before the fish heads hit their lips: they died surprised. But, unlike Elias, there was a sickness in him, he wanted to kill too much. (…)

The gooks had shot him right above his left eye in ’66, and the bullet somehow lodged in there and he spent a year in a hospital in Japan. The resulting scar ran the whole left side of his face in a large, sickle-shaped pattern, layered with grafted skin from the indentation above his eye to his lower jaw. It was a massive job, indicative of equally massive damage to the nerves and possibly the brain. 

Does it mean they ruined Barnes’ face in the hospital trying to extract the bullet? Jesus….
But why the grafted skin then? And I wonder why they decided to change the side in the movie, in script the scar is still on the left. Then there is that discrepance between the book and the script: in the book it was 1964 (which actually must have been a goof as the war hadn’t really started until 1965)

I like the way the tidbits appear “out of nowhere” once we’ve had discussed them. Like the possible Barnes’ brain damage, that stayed below my radar for 20 years, until recently.

When Barnes looked you in the eye, you felt it all the way down to your balls. But there was a tenderness and sensuality in the man’s quietude that made him fascinating, equally handsome in a snub-nosed way as Elias, and I found out in time he was married to a Japanese girl he’d met in the hospital. He’d been wounded some six or seven times, though he never talked about it, or the woman, or himself. He’d get drunk at poker and occasionally crack a country smile, but never let you in. The only vulnerability in the man was the scar, and such a massive thing it was that it provoked the deepest empathy. 

It sounds so much like the quotation from Moby Dick posted yesterday, doesn’t it? “And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don’t know what(…)”

About Elias

The real Elias was about twenty-three In 1968 when I met him during a brief stint in the First Cavalry’s Long Range Reconnaissance patrol (…) Dashingly handsome, with thick black hair, a flashing white smile, and Apache blood, Elias was everything we were later going to recognize in Jim Morrison and Joplin and Hendrix, he was a rock star but played it out as a soldier; real danger turned him on. Everybody seemed to love him except the ‘lifers’ and the juicers, with their six and seven stripes(…)

I heard Elias died on some hill in the Ashau when one of our grenades went off and killed him. It was unlike Elias; he was too smart to get wasted like that, yet how symbolic of this frustrating war – many of our best troops killed by our own side in accidents. There was even the whispered thought that Elias had been done in by one of our lifers.

Stone uses the names Barnes and Elias, not the Barnes/Elias character as he often does in the commentary — does this indicate Barnes was the man’s real name?

There is also a nice piece about Charlie Sheen, unluckily Stone’s prediction about him becoming a big star didn’t really came true.

[Sheen] arrived a bit of a nerd from the teen films he’d done – Malibu in his soul, hot wings at Hamburger Hamlet, tightly cut hair, with a hundred pounds of provisions his mother sent that he would never use. Over the weeks, he’s become tougher, sharper, a jungle vet who can hump sixty pounds and walk right up on a deer in the bush without being heard. The changes exactly mirror those in his character in the script

An interesting behind-the-scenes tidbit: they actually built the church ruins, which later were used for For the Boys in 1990 or 1991, so it was a solid construction. And I wonder if Stone, more or less consciously copies the church from Apocalypse Now from the scene where Willard meets Kilgore for the first time.

The other thing we’ve discussed already is that the movie is a result of…

…just plain luck and the coming together of so many live elements in the proper framework.

There are some words about editing that I liked:

Editing always seems to me like a calculated rout from my grand plan of attack, but in the end the essence seems to survive in a reduced form, like amoebae in a dish ready to grow again with the audience.

And those lines that are filled with a certain sadness about the impossibility of putting the vision on screen completely.

I know that although I finished the film, a part of it will never be there, any more than the faces of the gawky boys we left behind in the dust. As close as I came to Charlie Sheen, he would never be me and Platoon would never be what I saw in my mind when I wrote it and which was just a fragment, really, of what happened years ago.

I wonder how Platoon would look like if Stone had more time and money, how his vision actually looked like. Reading the script now one automatically see the movie and the actors… Although since reading Break, I started to see Elias in a different light, as if the image of a rebellious Indian kid blended into the final form of Dafoe’s performance.

ARCHIVE FILE | Moby Dick Parallels

27 08 2008

No, I’m not able to post any kind of high level comparison of Platoon and Moby Dick. I’ve read the book long ago and hated it (sorry!), I don’t think I’ll read it again. Actually, I would be happy if anyone having the needed skills had done it before. But, surprisingly, it seems that nobody did. Even renowned journalists and reviewers seem to overlook the parallels that literally jumped at me while reading the book. In all reviews/articles I’ve read (and there are plenty of them, at least those which are free available) the novel is only seldom mentioned, and that in a very general manner. 

In the movie Chris calls Barnes “our captain Ahab-the eye of our rage” and it surely makes sense. Both characters are completely possessed by revenge, in Moby Dick it’s much more evident and clearly stated, in Platoon the hints were edited and can be found only in the script and the novelisation of it. You just have to replace the White Whale by Vietcong, both are shown as almost blind nature forces.

Even if there is a character in Moby Dick with the name Elijah: a strange beggar prophesying the ill fate of Pequod (see also the post about Biblical parallels). He says: 

Oh! when ye get there, tell ‘em I’ve concluded not to make one of ‘em.

…and it is the only thing the movie Elias could say. If I remember right, if there was a substitute of Elias in Moby Dick, it was Starbuck, someone who saw the madness of Ahab’s hunt and didn’t want to participate in it, but had not much choice “being in the same boat.”

Another similarity of both stories is the character of Ishmael, someone who survived the apocalyptic confrontation to tell us the story. Stone does compare himself to Ishmael in some of the interviews.


The examples below are surely not all, I made some notes in 1988 when I read the book, not all of them survived the time.

Reading Moby Dick I was surprised how much Barnes actually is Ahab, and how much the way Ishmael sees the captain, resembled the way I (and probably Chris/Oliver Stone) saw sgt. Barnes from the very beginning. It started with the mere description of the character’s face:

Threading its way out from among his grey hairs, and continuing right down one side of his tawny scorched face and neck, till it disappeared in his clothing, you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish. 

So there is a scar on Ahab’s face even if I cannot recall an explanation about what caused it. 


This is what I saw in the “I am reality scene”.

(…)moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his face; in all the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.  


Another fragment that could be easily applied to sgt. Barnes.

(…) you must jump when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and go – that’s the word with Captain Ahab. But nothing about that thing that happened to him off Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days and nights; nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa? – heard nothing about that, eh?


Captain Peleg’s description of Ahab echoes a little bit of what Rhah says about Barnes through the movie: 

I know Captain Ahab well; I’ve sailed with him as mate years ago; know what he is – a good man – not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man – something like me – only there’s a good deal more of him. Aye, aye, I know thathe was never very jolly; and I know that on the passage home he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but it was the sharp shooting pains in his bleeding stump that brought that about, as any one might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost his leg last voyage by that accursed whale, he’s been a kind of moody- desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass off. And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man, it’s better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one. (…)

(…) be your boast, Stubb, that ye were kicked by old Ahab, and made a wise man of. Remember what I say; be kicked by him; account his kicks honors; and on no account kick back; for you can’t help yourself, wise Stubb.


I didn’t know the script back in 1988, so the part about Barnes marrying the Japanese woman was a surprise. The “wicked name” is surely an allusion to the biblical king Ahab:

So good-bye to thee – and wrong not Captain Ahab, because he happens to have a wicked name. Besides, my boy, he has a wife – not three voyages wedded – a sweet, resigned girl. Think of that; by that sweet girl that old man had a child…


And this was what I felt about Barnes, against the common opinion.

… hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his humanities! (…)

As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with acertain wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don’t know what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a strange awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all describe, was not exactly awe; I do not know what it was. But I felt it; and it did not disincline me towards him; though I felt impatience at what seemed like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to me then.


This sounds so much like “the only thing that can kill Barnes is Barnes” 

Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but for that I ask thee not to beware of Starbuck; thou wouldst but laugh; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man.


And this one sounded like the essence of what the soldiers felt entering the village, the moment when Ahab’s name is mentioned in Platoon:

Judge, then, to what pitches of inflamed, distracted fury theminds of his more desperate hunters were impelled, when amid the chipsof chewed boats, and the sinking limbs of torn comrades, they swam out of the white curds of the whale’s direful wrath into the serene, exasperating sunlight, that smiled on, as if at a birth or a bridal.  



Those two essays dealing with Ahab have some interesting points

Ahab as a Blasphemous Figure

A major assumption that runs through Moby Dick is that Ahab’s quest against the great whale is a blasphemous activity, even apart from the consequences that it has upon its crew. This blasphemy takes two major forms: the first type of blasphemy to prevail within Ahab is hubris, the idea that Ahab thinks himself the equal of God. The second type of blasphemy is a rejection of God altogether for an alliance with the devil. Melville makes this point explicit during various episodes of the novel, such as the instance in which Gabriel warns Ahab to “think of the blasphemer’s end” (Chapter 71: The Jeroboam’s Story) and the appraisal of Ahab from Peleg in which he designates him as an ungodly man (Chapter 16: The Ship).

The idea that Ahab’s quest for Moby Dick is an act of defiance toward God assuming that Ahab is omnipotent first occurs before Ahab is even introduced during Father Mapple’s sermon. The lesson of the sermon, which concerns the story of Jonah and the whale, is to warn against the blasphemous idea that a ship can carry a man into regions where God does not reign. Ahab parallels this idea when he compares himself to God as the lord over the Pequod (Chapter 109: Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin). Melville furthers this idea through the prophetic dream that Fedallah tells Ahab that causes Ahab to conclude that he is immortal.

In a way Barnes also sees himself as a God of at least his platoon, it is “his war”, his world where he seems to have the absolute power, and destroys Elias who challenges this power.


The Attack on Transcendentalism, by Keegan Lerch

Moby Dick and Captain Ahab both refute the Transcendentalist principle that there is no evil, there is only love. The Transcendentalists feel that the world is filled with goodness, however, the Anti-Transcendentalists believe in the more reasonable idea that man has the potential to be either good or bad. Moby Dick is portrayed as evil in the story as Ahab tells of how he lost his leg to the white behemoth. After Ahab loses his leg to the white whale he Creates himself as the “race-hero”; moving against the presence of evil, Ahab vows to kill the source of evil: Moby Dick. (Stern, 74) Ahab, therefore, unconscientiously casts his own evil onto Moby Dick. The whale also personifies the evil that exisists within Ahab. The evil Ahab possesses is the result of his obsession with extinguishing the evil in the whale. The very evil that exists in Ahab is that which the transcendentalists deem to be non-existent. Melville is therefore striking heavily upon the ideals of the Transcendentalists.

… and it somehow reminds me of what albert_frey2 wrote at IMDB about Barnes Messias complex (read the post). It is arguable if you can see Vietcong as a force of evil, but if you were a GI in the jungle, they surely could be perceived as such.  


Here are some links about the story that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

Two Huge Pieces Still to Read

27 08 2008

A strange history of Vietnam: the history of the Vietnam War through film 

ABSTRACT: History is being taught by film and as a result many people obtain an “Impression” of history and learn incomplete or in some cases biased history. This is especially true for the Vietnam War, where war films have been used to create a form of history termed “Impressionist history.” This historical theory is explained in the context of a two other contemporary historical phenomena called epimethianism and reflectivity. Epimethian history occurs when the historian, who in this work is generally the filmmaker, applies contemporary values and ideas to the past. Reflectivity is a property of historical documents and narratives, including films that describe the degree to which the historian or filmmaker has inserted epimethianism into their analysis of the past. This work tells the history of the Vietnam War through selected films. It then deconstructs each film according to historical accuracy, epimethianism, and reflectivity.




The Kubrick Corner

Kubrick’s films all provoke their share of polarized opinions, from extravagant praise to nay saying, with a lot of bewilderment in between. It’s always been this way. His films have almost invariably provoked confusion and/or controversy upon their initial release, only to see their reputations improve with the perspective afforded by time. I can think of no other modern filmmaker working remotely in the neighbourhood of the mainstream commercial cinema whose films so merit and reward a second, third or fourth viewing, and whose work always seems richer and more satisfying when returned to. (…)

Kubrick’s “form as content” approach reaches it’s zenith with “Full Metal Jacket”, where content begins to war with the film narrative itself. If “Jacket” is a story about man’s duality, this theme is reflected in a film structure that is likewise dual in nature. This doubling permeates every technical and artistic aspect of the film, literally on a scene-by-scene basis.

And it’s this unique coupling of form and content (or form-as-content) that marks Kubrick as a particularly Modernist artist. His refusal of irony as a legitimate end in itself, distances his work from Post-Modernism. For all the scathing insight and, yes, irony in his work, his vision as an artist is a passionate and moral one.

Funnies: Toys, a Closer Look

25 08 2008

In THIS REVIEW one can see some details, also Barnes’ parachuter badge, so someone did his homework, but at the same time they have Barnes’ watch wrong, and his belt too, it doesn’t have the Vietcong buckle with the red star. Chris’ bandana has also a different pattern. I think they need someone like me over at Sideshow 😆

 BTW, what I don’t like about the figures are the expressions of their faces. They look as if they tried to kill someone with their stare. 🙄

Sidetracks: Regarding Full Metal Jacket, a Newsgroup Discussion

24 08 2008

… at Kubrick website

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