Story Analyses

8 09 2008

 

Strange text following some pattern of analyzing stories that is totally unknown to me. It is full of repetitions and somehow difficult to understand, however sometimes I wish I had that kind of “intellectual toolkit” to work with… What is unusual, the author concentrates on the relation between Chris and Barnes, leaving Elias almost completely out of the equation, giving him merely the function of a katalyst.

 

Storytelling Output Report for “Platoon”
by J.D. Cochran
read the whole text

 

In an apparent dilemma story, the main character believes the problem to be in the environment when it is really within him or herself. Chris believes that going off to fight in the Vietnam War will lead him to what he’s searching for–to find a cause to engage in and support that he can be proud of, however, fighting in the war isn’t going to solve Chris’ problem. He has to realize he needs to find pride within himself before he finds it in war, or anywhere else. (…)

 

Women will empathize with “Platoon” because the main character is faced with increasingly limited options to find a sense of pride within himself, let alone survive the Vietnam War. (…)

This is a really strange statement. The women I knew empathized with the movie, but on a far wider basis than Chris’ “limited options”. 

 

An illustration of how delusion acts as the catalyst in the objective story is when Bunny paints a fantasy about an old woman and her crippled son being the leaders of the village and agents for the Viet Cong army. After doing so, he commences to beat and kill the innocent civilians. (…)

An interesting observation: I never paid much attention to what Bunny said, but indeed what he’s doing is fabricating a fake backstory to support his actions. I understood his statement as irony, but he probably really believes in his own words. Of course the story HAS some validity as is surely happened that innocent looking people in villages were VC. 

 

Once I’ve read someone’s negative critic mentioning that Chris is a passive character, being dragged through the story instead of actively shaping it. Here is a contrary view:

Main Character Approach as it relates to Do-er: There are a number of examples illustrating how Chris prefers to deal with situations externally, and looks for physical solutions to his problems. For instance: Chris drops out of college and enlists in the military to do something positive for his country; He shoots his rifle at the feet of a young, retarded man he finds hiding. This is done as a means of releasing the tension and frustration that has built up from horrific ordeals he and his platoon have recently experienced; While his platoon pillages a small village, Chris rescues a young village girl from being raped by some of the men in his platoon; When Sgt. Elias is missing in the jungle, Chris sets out to find him until he’s stopped by Sgt. Barnes; Chris attacks Sgt. Barnes when Barnes confronts him and others about killing Sgt. Elias; In the film’s climatic battle, instead of relying on the safety of his foxhole, Chris leaves to engage the enemy in hand to hand combat; Ultimately, he ends up murdering Sgt. Barnes in an act of revenge for Elias and for himself. (…)

 

This is also quite right, there was no proof of Barnes killing Elias. Chris knows that when he responses to Doc in the discussion after Elias’ death. He knows he couldn’t say “proof is in the eyes” in any serious courtroom in the world; Even if Barnes somehow admitted it in his “I am reality” speech, he still haven’t said anything which would be a valid guilty plea. So Chris decides to take the justice in his own hands, but his action is — as mentioned before — based on assumption:

Chris presumes Barnes killed Elias as if it were a fact. But in actuality, he doesn’t know for sure that Sgt. Barnes killed Elias, it’s just a feeling that Chris has about him.  (…)

Even though he didn’t see Barnes actually shoot Elias, or has any physical proof of the crime, Chris still knows Barnes murdered Elias. Chris’ beliefs are derived from the tense, volatile relationship between Elias and Barnes, and the horrible scene where Elias runs from the jungle only to get killed by the enemy soldiers pursuing him. This sight directly contradicts Sgt. Barnes questionable account of how he earlier found Elias dead in the jungle  (…)

For Barnes, conflict will decrease between the two as soon as Chris can prove himself to be more like a soldier willing to set his morals aside while fighting in Vietnam. Chris accomplishes this when he blows Barnes away. He does not, however, prove Barnes’ crimes in a way that would allow justice to triumph, which lends to his failure to resolve his personal angst. (…)

 

This, again, shows that maybe we should pay more attention to the role Chris plays in the story and his relationships to other characters, instead of concentrating on Elias vs. Barnes conflict:

Chris Taylor has joined the platoon to fight for his country, and like Sgt. Barnes, he wants to “be all that he can be.” He falls short as a soldier in Barnes’ eyes, and further, by Chris aligning himself with the compassionate Sgt. Elias, Chris and Barnes come into conflict. The conflict between the two escalates, to the point of each operating on raw nerves. Barnes is directly responsible for Elias’ death, and Chris, who has become more like his nemesis than his mentor, kills Barnes in a murderous reflex action of revenge. (…)

Both the main character [Chris] and the obstacle character [Barnes] see each other as the cause of the problems they are experiencing in their relationship. Barnes’ blatant disregard for ethics of war and his dysfunctional code of morals are like a nagging toothache on Chris’ psyche: CHRIS: Not just me… it’s the way the whole thing works. People like Elias get wasted and people like Barnes just go on making up rules any way they want and what do we do, we just sit around in the middle and suck on it! We just don’t add up to a rat’s ass. (…)

Barnes views Chris the same way he views Elias, an agent out to challenge his way of war, a crusader causing dissension among the men, undermining Barnes’ efforts, and placing the platoon in jeopardy.  (…)

Worth accelerates the conflict between Chris Taylor and Sgt. Barnes. There are many times when Barnes views Taylor as a hindrance and liability to the platoon, and he ultimately tries to kill him. For example: when Chris throws up and can’t physically handle himself the first time he sees a rotting corpse  (…); When Chris allegedly falls asleep on his watch,  (…); When Barnes realizes Chris knows he lied about Elias being dead; When Barnes overhears Chris trying to convince the others that Barnes killed Elias, and in one of the final battle scenes where the tension between Barnes and Chris comes to a head and Barnes tries to kill Chris during the commotion of hand to hand combat with the Viet Cong. Conversely, there are several times when the actions and beliefs Barnes embraces provokes Chris to evaluate Barnes’ worth to the platoon and acts as a catalyst in the tension between the two. For instance, Chris is appalled when Barnes shoots a village woman in the head and then threatens to shoot a young village girl (…); Chris tries to convince some of the other men that Barnes killed Elias, and that they need to kill Barnes who is becoming an evil, immoral, out-of-control liability to the platoon. By the end of the film, Chris’ moral integrity has deteriorated to the point where he is able to kill Sgt. Barnes, who he sees as a worthless human being. (…)

There are different opinions about Barnes trying consciously to kill Chris in the final battle. From the authors POV, it seems to be a logical consequence of the conflict between them. I still wisch stone would make a clearer point here, at least in the commentary… on the other hand it gives us something to ponder about. 🙂 

 

Some fragments that seem to negate the popular opinion about Barnes as a “Frankenstein Monster” or “cardboard Satan”, the author deal with the possible reasons for Barnes’ behaviour:

Barnes leads his troops by taking on and acting the tough, hard, insensitive persona he feels is necessary to get his men to respond to him, and to the activities of war in a way that will allow them to actually win.  (…)

Sgt. Barnes is the antithesis of Hamlet. He relies on his knowledge of war to react and perform quickly. He’s not one to sit around and consider, contemplate, or ponder situations. (…)

Cause drives Sgt. Barnes. Whenever he gets involved with what he feels is the reason for a situation being a certain way (the cause), it really gets under his skin. This is why he is so bothered by Elias. Elias has his own take on particular causes the platoon faces. Since these two view the war differently, their view of certain causes is a source of tension for them.  (…)

Effect will end the source of Sgt. Barnes’ drive and motivation. By reprimanding the platoon on the all night ambush, Barnes feels he will be able to get his men to perform better on their missions; By denouncing and challenging Lt. Wolfe’s authority, Barnes will secure more control over the platoon; The effect of killing Elias will prevent Barnes from having to deal with any “crusaders” in his platoon. (…)

When two more platoon members are killed by a booby trap in an abandoned enemy bunker, Chris notices Sgt. Barnes sitting down, lost in a thought. Barnes is obviously affected by the deaths of more of his men, enough so to make him momentarily lose his tough, military sergeant facade and expose a slight vulnerability. (…)

 

Hmmmm, not sure about that:

“Death… What do y’all know ’bout death?” is what Barnes asks Chris and the others of the “head” when he confronts them about Elias. What Barnes is really saying to the men is “You don’t know about death. Only I know about death.” Whenever Sgt. Barnes comes across as the old wise one, it really doesn’t play well. If there’s one thing these men know, it’s that anyone can die at any time, and death has no loyalties. Barnes seems to think he owns an exclusive insight to death. This often undermines his own credibility when he tries to impose his wisdom on others. (…)

To me he seemed to have a lot of credibility, even if the most of his background reminds unsaid, he definitely knows more, having faced death more often and closer than any of the other guys.

 

This is one of the few points about Elias vs. Barnes conflict:

Sgt. Barnes and Sgt. Elias get into an altercation over Sgt. Barnes’ controversial behavior and questionable leadership in the village. As a result, the platoon becomes cloaked in civil war. Half the platoon sides with Sgt. Elias, and the other half with Sgt. Barnes. Morale among the platoon is bad. Suspicion and hate cause them to turn on each other. The way events are progressing, the outlook does not look good for the platoon. (…)

When the all night ambush goes awry, Sgt. Barnes focuses on Chris’ preconscious responses as being the cause of the problem. Barnes believes that Chris fell asleep during his watch, allowing the enemy to sneak up on the platoon. Even though this isn’t true, Barnes blames Chris’ inability to resist his impulse to sleep as the cause of the platoon’s two casualties (…)

IMO Barnes knew EXACTLY who fell asleep. He just don’t bother to discuss it in front of the men, maybe even to avoid the possibility of being openly blamed by Elias for sending the new guys on the night ambush.


Sgt. Barnes’ impact on Chris eventually dehumanizes him to the point where he is capable of killing his commanding officer, fully conscious that he is committing the same type of immoral act that Sgt. Barnes has engaged in. (…)

Yeah, “only Barnes can kill Barnes”.

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Another dissertation based on a dissertation…

29 08 2008

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

NORTHROP FRYE GOES TO THE MOVIES By MARK HAMILTON 

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





Battleground Masculinity: Gendertroublers and Gatekeepers in Oliver Stone’s Platoon

24 07 2008

by Christina Judith Hein, 2007

Interesting perspective — from a German website

QUOTE: On the pictorial level, Elias’s masculinity is coded as deviant and somewhat queer, especially in relation to the conventions of the genre. In excess of representing moral integrity, or, with Mat-Ami, the rehumanizing power in a dirty war, then, Elias might be considered to bear certain traits conventionally perceived as feminine: he is sensuous, emotional and caring, he promotes singing and dancing, and he cherishes romantic settings, as in the intimate conversation he has with Chris under a densely starred night sky with its obligatory shooting star. (….)

Platoon, while still offering itself as a realistic and authentically scripted representation of the Vietnam experience, does address as well as negotiate the construction of maleness in a heteronormative environment. The way that the film brings to the fore issues of masculinity and discusses the repressive forces inbuilt into any social system makes it stand out among mainstream films of any genre. (…)

The very sober execution of Barnes at the movie’s end, mainly in full shot, stands in stark contrast to the spectacle of Elias’s death. And while Barnes, tellingly, is killed after he has received a bullet wound uncomfortably close to the crotch, after an attack at his virility, that is, Elias maintains his queer position… 

read the whole article

Hmmm…





Religion And Politics In Films About The Vietnam War

29 06 2008

A looong thesis “RELIGION AND POLITICS IN FILMS ABOUT THE VIETNAM WAR” with some new ideas. Starts to be interesting from the page 10 down.

QUOTE: The metaphor of motion pictures helps explain a two-sided emotion: the feeling of participating in events far beyond ordinary experience (blown up on a huge screen) yet being powerless to control the outcome of the story. He feels at once the heady self importance of the movie star and the helplessness of the moviegoer, impotent to affect the actions unfolding on the screen.

By the late sixties, soldiers turned against the war in droves. Many of them wrote UUUU on their helmets, representing the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful.





Evil In The Early Cinema Of Oliver Stone…

15 01 2008

…Platoon and Wall Street as Modern Modality Plays.
From: Journal of Popular Film and Television  |  Date: 6/22/2000  |  Author: STONE, JOHN

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-64688899.html

QUOTE: From the outset, there is little doubt about the nature of Barnes and Gekko–the viewer knows plenty about both before they say or do a thing. (…)

Moreover, in films that appear so conscious of using the camera and making editing decisions that prompt the viewer to accept the authenticity of the setting and the characters, it is noteworthy that these are the only characters to be treated with nondiegetic filmic manipulations. Gekko’s final offer to Bud to join him as an inside trader is marked by a sudden and inexplicable fading of backlight. As Gekko stands in total darkness, with a hard sidelight now casting his face with ominous shadows, his apocalyptic offer to Bud, “get dressed and I’ll show you my charts,” is punctuated by a sudden clap of thunder that clearly originates outside the story-world. Likewise, at very purposeful points, Barnes is depicted with eyes that are optically printed as angry red points–synecdochically cast as “the essence of evil: wrath, obsession, anger, fear, hatred, [and] permanence” (Stone 123).

It is a very good article, sadly it’s not free. Which leads me to a rant:

If the information should be free of charge or not, is another question, but what really infuriates me about all those subscription (and many other, btw.) services, is that there is no way to find out how much they charge, before you made it at least half way through the registration. You can spend hours looking around in terms of use. There is no damn price! Which makes me want to sue them for the time I’ve lost searching in vain. For now, they can kiss my virtual butt!





Platoon – Analysis of the Movie and Comparison to Business World Today

15 01 2008

from: http://docgoku.com/mba_projects/platoon

It looks like an university project. First I was wondering (for the n-th time) if we (me and the author) really saw the same movie, but IMO, aside from getting some facts messed up, the author also made some points at least worth to think about:

QUOTE: In its portrayal of the conflict between Barnes and Elias, the film is an example of a morality play – the narrative form in which conflicts between allegorical depictions of good (Elias) and evil (Barnes) leave plenty of room for moral lessons to be drawn (…)

Sgt. Barnes is a typical transactional leader. According to Robbins (2000) a transactional leader is one who “guide[s] or motivate[s] their followers in the direction of established goals by clarifying role and task requirements” (p. 43). Taggart (2001) says followers of transactional leaders “simply obey orders” (cited in Taggart, 2001). Such leadership is necessary within the military since failure means the loss of lives. Barnes demonstrates his leadership style the afternoon before the ambush, when he gives the orders of who will go on duty that night. However the failure of this style is shown, with the death of the new recruit, Gardner. Yet Barnes is able to give the orders, and effectively run the platoon, because of his reliance on deterrence-based trust. “Deterrence-based trust will work only to the degree that punishment is possible, consequences are clear and the punishment is actually imposed” 

The actions of Sgt. Barnes make it painfully obvious that transactional leadership may not be the most effective type of leadership. In order to retain his place as leader, Barnes eliminates his conflict, his enemy, his fellow soldier and American, quite ruthlessly, without much thought as to the consequences or considering the “Big Picture.” His ability to give orders also caused him to not objectively consider the objections raised by Sgt. Elias and could have prevented the death of Gardner. (…)

Sgt. Elias’s leadership style is transformational, rather than transactional. A charismatic leader is a leader who “provide[s] followers with meaning by constructing and communicating a vision, or image, that articulates followers’ values while allowing them to express their identity through a shared collective vision.” 

Elias displays two key attributes of a charismatic leader, extraordinary behavior and acting as an agent of change (Robbins, p. 144). As a change agent, it is Sgt. Elias’s challenge to Sgt. Barnes in the village scene with the little girl and the reporting to the Captain. His extraordinary behavior is shown in his prescience of knowing where the enemy will come from (and how to outflank them) and his superhuman effort to take on a seemingly entire Viet Cong army by himself. (…)

His unwavering belief in his vision ultimately leads to his death by the hands of Sgt. Barnes. While his values and parts of his vision are cherished by the rest of the Grunts, Sgt. Elias embodies the vision. When he died, in essence, there is no one to stand up and support what he believed – there is no new standard bearer.

Okay, okay, but I’d like to know what exactly Elias vision should be. Keeping clean hands in a dirty situation?

Another key leadership lesson from the movie that can be applied to the business world is that bad things can happen when members of the organization are not trained or oriented properly. It becomes immediately apparent in the film that Taylor, and all other new infantry in the war, are simply thrown to the wolves to fend for themselves with little training or orientation.(…)

In the platoon of the film, not only is there not a culture of training and education for the new men, the new members are often thrust into the most dangerous situations to protect the more experienced men who are close to fulfilling their one year commitment in the war and are close to going home. As a result of the culture of thrusting the untrained, inexperienced men into these situations, the new men make grave mistakes that get other people killed. If new members of an organization are expected to contribute quickly, then orientation, training and ongoing education is essential in developing the members’ skill sets.





An Analysis of Myth and Countermyth in The Green Berets and Platoon

21 11 2007

Film-Made Man, Man-Made Film
An Analysis of Myth and Countermyth in John Wayne’s The Green Berets and Oliver Stone’s Platoon

by Dan B. Butler

read the whole article

QUOTE: In some ways, John Wayne’s ultrapatriotism during Korea and Vietnam is the ultimate of ironies: the same hero of the war movies who urged men to sign up and serve (and criticized them for being “soft” if they didn’t) evaded military service for the entirety of World War II. Perhaps if Wayne had seen the carnage of war firsthand, he might not have been so quick to encourage young Americans to commit to Korea and Vietnam. (…)

[in The Green Berets] the cast of infantrymen is seemingly lifted from any of Wayne’s earlier war pictures. The soldiers are professional, courteous, respect the officers, and have no vices (in stark contrast to the gambling, womanizing, alcohol-guzzling North Vietmanese Army soldiers depicted in the film). The enlisted men seem strangely homogenous, from the Nordic übermensch lecturers at the beginning of the film to the medic who gives aid to the civilian population. (As we will observe, Stone presents the viewer with a far different image of a platoon. In a tracking shot through the barracks, the viewer sees his platoon as comprised of different men from all walks of life.) (…)

The John Wayne myth presented a clear-cut battle between good and evil, Western Democracy versus Eastern Communism. Vietnam was World War II all over again, and young men everywhere had an obligation to join the fight. (…)

One person who grew up watching John Wayne movies was Oliver Stone. Like so many other young men, Stone was heavily influenced by war movies and the familiar mythologies manifested in them. The John Wayne myth was particularly appealing. “I believed in the John Wayne image of America,” he said in a 1988 interview. It is not surprising, then, that Stone decided to enlist in the infantry in 1967:

My father was a Republican, and he taught me that it was a good war because the Communists were the bad guys and we had to fight them. And then there was the romanticism of the Second World War as it appeared in the films we mentioned. Obviously, the reality was very different.(…)

Stone’s films [are] uncomfortable to watch: he acknowledges the viewer’s perceptions and attempts to destroy those perceptions by shifting focus to an alternative frame of reference. Although the most obvious instances of this aspect of Stone’s films can be seen in JFK, Nixon, and Salvador, he uses the same techniques in his Vietnam films Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven and Earth. (…)

Platoon can be logically deconstructed into two distinct but interwoven elements. First, the film is a realistic portrayal of the American G.I.’s experience during Vietnam (…) Second, Platoon is a melodrama that centers on the mythic struggle between Chris Taylor, Sergeant Barnes, and Sergeant Elias. Stone’s films are often informed by a sense of the mythological, and this can be seen in the “two fathers” motif in Platoon.

Since its release in 1986, Platoon has been attacked by some critics for its heavy-handed treatment of the conflict between Barnes and Elias. The critics argue that [in] the end, the clear-cut battle oversimplifies and consequently adds nothing to the understanding of the war in Vietnam. This analysis is incorrect. The characters of Barnes and Elias are more complex than the “good” and “bad” labels that are sometimes attached to them, and the revenge-killing resolution of the film is far more ambiguous. Both men are professional soldiers, and both men want to win the war*. Stone describes the real Barnes as being a “good soldier who had his men’s trust” but was obsessed with the war. Barnes is more of a tragic figure than an evil one; this is even expressed by Chris before the platoon decimates a village:

(…)Barnes was at the eye of our rage-and through him, our Captain Ahab-we would set things right again. That day we loved him.

Their Captain Ahab is a man that, as Rhah explains to the others, “ain’t meant to die . . . the only one that can kill Barnes is Barnes.” In the end, the rifle is in Chris’ hands, but Barnes tells him to pull the trigger. The revenge-killing, as many critics call it, seems more like a mercy killing. (…)

Although Barnes and Elias take on almost mythic qualities in Platoon, their characters are based in reality, an important element in the film. Oliver Stone described the two men in 1987:

I knew the two sergeants in the different units. Sergeant Barnes was wounded in the face. He was a good soldier who had his men’s trust. But he had one huge failing: his murderous obsession with the Vietnamese. He hated them all, men, women, and children. Sergeant Elias was almost exactly the opposite: he was an anti-racist who looked like the rock star, Jim Morrison-a handsome man, well-dressed, loved by his troops.

Platoon echoes a number of elements present in The Green Berets. Through these elements Stone constructs a peripheral response to the John Wayne myth. Consider the arrival of the outfit in Vietnam. Colonel Kirby and his men step off their C-130 onto a clean tarmac to meet the grinning Colonel Morgan, who greets them with a “Welcome to Da Nang!” This is a far cry from the experiences of Oliver Stone depicts inPlatoon: there, Chris Taylor leaves the C-130 onto a dusty landing strip. He and his fellow recruits see bodybags lined up waiting to go home and are met by a master sergeant with “All right you cheese-dicks, welcome to the Nam! Get moving!” (…)

George Beckworth is the only character in The Green Berets with a character arc, whose sole purpose is showing America why it should be in Vietnam. In many ways, he is an excellent foil for Platoon’s Chris Taylor. At the beginning of the film, Beckworth tells Kirby that he doesn’t think the United States should be involved in Vietnam. By the end of the film, he has decided to join the Army and serve in Vietnam. Chris Taylor, by contrast, goes to Vietnam an idealist and leaves disillusioned.