Sidetracks: FMJ, The Chain Reaction

23 08 2008

It’s happening again…

Yesterday I was still looking through the FMJ boards on IMDB. Our good friend ctsamados posted an info about a documentary called Kubrick’s Boxes, another poster gave a direct link to it. I opened the site, then I changed to YouTube, as for some reason the performance was better there. Watched the whole documentary, then out of curiosity I started to click on “related videos” until I found FULL METAL JACKET subliminal analysis by Rob Ager which blew me away. If yesterday I was just vaguely considering re-watching the bad VHS copy I have, now I’m seriously thinking of buying a DVD. 

It’s all about a different movie but it’s comforting to know that my own scrutinising each and every detailin Platoon and asking myself about a purpose behind them, is not a sign of madness. And if it is — at least I’m not alone. 

So maybe Platoon did planted some subliminal message into my brain. So maybe it is a riddle to figure out?

Sidetracks: The Key to FMJ

22 08 2008

Really good observations about FMJ, from IMDB thread. I think tieman64 gives me a key to — if not like — at least appreciate the movie.  

by tieman64 (Mon Jul 7 2008 )
(…)We expect war movies to firstly introduce us to their characters and then to subject us to “war as hell”. Most war films follow this pattern.

“Full Metal Jack” does the opposite. Instead of introducing us to individuals, it is about removing all individuality. The soldiers become drones. They’re then placed in “hell” (Vietnam), only the “hell” they expect, and get, is an anectodal deconstruction of war-movie myths (welcome to Vietnam the movie!). The real “hell” begins when the marines, sitting on cinema seats and watching outwards at the very film they’re in, escape through the doors behind them. From here on, the flames rise and the landscape changes.

A typical war film introduces us to it’s cast and then develops these characters. But the military (and Full Metal Jacket) spends time breaking men down. Instead of being introduced to the soldiers, we see the soldiers striped down to one dimentional entitites. They become one body. We don’t get closer to them. They get further away from us.

We don’t even know Joker is the main character until we reach Vietnam. It’s then that we realise that Joker has survived the indoctrination process. He’s the only one who’s retained his individuality. Everyone else is alien to us.

A typical war film then sends it’s characters into hell, where they witness the “horror”, but FMJ sends it’s characters into a shapeless, anectodal landscape which gradually devolves into a film within a film. There is no horror here. The high tech marines roll through Vietnam, killing from a distance. Kubrick goes to great lengths to film all the violence in this section with an impersonal touch. None of the deaths are exciting, horrific or adrenaline pumping. They’re all at a distance. Sanitized. Empty.

The film treats Vietnam as more of a transitionary state than a real place. It’s a psychological wasteland in which the marine unit bumbles about, confused. The marine group only becomes fully formed when the two reporters (Rafterman and Joker) are symbollically converted into killers and then absorbed into the group.

As the film progresses, you begin to notice that the whole film is structured around duality or opposites. This is for fighting, this is for fun. Left, right. Male, female. Hearts, minds. Peace, war. Baby, man. God, country. Tense, wayward. This is my rifle, this is my gun. Cohesion, chaos. Pvt Snowball (white), Pvt Eightball (black). Military music, nonsensical music. Rigid camera, wayward camera. Brother, sister…etc etc. Every detail is paired off and opposed. Part 1 ends with Pyle claiming that he is in a “world of sh*t” and Hartman bursting in with “What is this Mickey Mouse sh*t?” which is then mirrored to Part 3 ending with the soldiers singing the Mickey Mouse club song, and Joker claiming that HE is in a “world of sh*t”.

So the film is very deliberalty structured and quite challenging. Part 1 can be viewed as being about the dynamics of violence within a state, whilst Part 2 is about the violence or chaos between states. Part 1 is tightly structured, with the linearity of a war machine’s intention, whereas Part 2 is looser, reflecting the chaotic effects of war and the psychological confusion of the marines.

by marcolopolis25 (Mon Jul 7 2008 ) 

(…) The one thing that stood out for me was that Joker personified this duality, while everyone else broke down into being brainwashed and becoming uniform.

Peace symbol and Born to Kill.

In the first part he was the only one who wasn’t afraid to express his opinion and stick to it (the mother Mary part). By this he gained respect. 

With all this said, I need to see it again.

by tieman64 (Tue Jul 8 2008 )
Martin Sheen in “Apocalypse Now”, Charlie in “Platoon”, Tom Hanks in “Saving Private Ryan”, Michael J Fox in “Casualties of War”…these are all clean cut faces we can relate to. They’re ordinary heroic guys, trust into madness.

Joker, however, is a hard character to get a grasp of. In everything he does and says, he maintains an ironic distance. He has to in order to survive. Joker sees through the bullsh*t. Nothing phases him because he’s surrounded by brainwashed slaves to the state. So to Kubrick, “survival” doesn’t mean “not getting hit by bullets”, it means retaining your freedom of will.

In one scene, Animal Mother, sniffs Joker out like a dog. “You seen any combat?” he asks. Joker then quickly puts on his false John Wayne persona, puffing out his chest. He’s not a killer, but to retain his sense of self, he needs to assume this false jacket. It keeps everyone off his back.

Hartman: “A reporter? You think you’re Mickey Spillane? You’re a killer!”
Joker: “A killer! Yes sir!”

Joker is an outsider who’s trying to resist becoming part of the group. He’s an external observer, whilst the group wants to absorb him, internalise him and turn him into a obedient killer. This is why the second half begins with the symbollic stealing of a camera. Firstly, Kubrick’s rigid military camera style is stollen, and secondly, Joker now has to find a replacement. But will he choose camera or gun?

So we rarely catch glimpses of the real Joker. He’s a cynical, sarcastic trickster, always dancing with his Shadow.

Secondly, Joker isn’t a character at all. He is symbollic of the cynical, self aware aspects of the marine group. The marine want hypermasculinized killers. Once they symbollically kill off their infantile qualities (Pyle), intellectual qualities (Joker) and their father (Hartman) and mother’s feminine qualities (Sniper- “how can you shoot women and children?), they become one dimentional killers free to be used by the state (Who’s the leader of this club that’s made for you and me?).

You say the film is not “emotional”, and you’re right to an extent. It’s not conventionally emotional. I think the only 2 base emotions Kubrick wants us to feel are:

1. To feel sad over the loss of Pyle and Joker (Both suicide, one symbollically, one literally)
2. To feel a sense of revenge. Or rather he wants us to understand that the violence towards Pyle and the violence toward the sniper are a form of primal vengeance and payback (relax, it’s just business).

The rest of the emotions in the film have a sort of cold, intellectual edge. I find the film more emotional when I think of it in terms of A Clockwork Orange. In ACO a rapist and killer is brainwashed into being peaceful. In FMJ, peaceful guys are brainwashed into rapists and killers. Both films are about the removal of free will. Both films end wit the state controling and using these killers. Throughout the film, Joker keeps his freedom. He’s not a slave to anyone. But in the end, it’s quite sad and creepy to see someone smart and clever nevertheless succomb to the powers of the state.

Anyway PantomLord, all your points about the film are valid, but they’re not flaws, their deliberate decisions made to get you questioning the film. I’m just writing this to maybe get you to think about the film differently next time you see it.


by Toby_gibson002 (Mon Jul 14 2008 )
Wow. Nice summing up of this movie. I agree with a lot of what’s been said here to the positive towards Full Metal Jacket, and some of the negative I understand what they’re talking about but I just really liked this movie. 

This movie was just another story to me until I read Michael Herr’s “Dispatches”. Upon recognizing some similarities between Dispatches and my recollections of Full Metal Jacket I came back here and wasn’t all that surprised to find that Herr was credited with some of the screenplay. I think they probably based a lot of this on his book and built a cohesive screenplay around it.

All I can say is read the book. Herr was a war correspondent- not the kind who went to the embassy at 5 every evening to dictate the sanitized version of what was happening- he was the kind who was “in the *beep* as they refer to it in F.M.J. His writings on this really gets you right down in the mud and the madness, and he has the rye sense of humor that they gave to Joker. You don’t have to have a degree to get this *beep* Anal thermometers have degrees and you know what you can do with those. 😉

Sidetracks: Willard’s scar in Apocalypse Now

17 08 2008

Talking about scars: There is something about Willard’s scar that puzzles me. First I thought the cut just happened to Martin Sheen on the set.

According to IMDB trivia section the shoot actually lasted 16 months, and the opening scene was shot as the last one. Now: if the cut was real, how could it last for over the year and heal as the movie progress from band aided, through a bloody scratch, to a scar?

Did they “included” the cut as it happened and adjusted the make-up so it fit the storyline?

BTW, maybe it’s the scar on Willard’s face that made me think of the opening scene as something that happens after he’d completed his mission? (reference)

Sidetracks: Apocalypse Again

14 08 2008

Writing another Archive File post about Platoon/Apocalypse Now parallells (coming soon) I needed some quotations so I looked for a transcript of Apocalypse 

Reading transcripts makes you pay attention to details which are easy to overlook while watching the movie. This time a line caught my attention: Willard: “Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500”. Sounds somehow familiar, doesn’t it? Ignorant as I am, I’ve always assumed that Bunny’s: “ain’t nothing like a piece of pussy cept maybe the Indie 500” is about a car model. But in Apocalypse it made no sense. Well, back to the roots… I mean, to Wikipedia: 

QUOTE: The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, often shortened to Indianapolis 500 or Indy 500, and historically known simply as “The 500,” is an American automobile race, held annually over the Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. 

Having the text I also looked closer at a little unclarity in Apocalypse’s narration. I’ve always had the impression that the first scene (Willard lying in bed in a hotel room) happens AFTER the mission, and the story is told in retrospection, although it’s hard to say where the retrospection starts. And there is indeed a break, even if it’s implied only by a grammatical change of the voiceover.

It starts with:

“Saigon, shit. I’m still only in Saigon. Every time I think I’m going to wake up back in the jungle. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I’d wake up and there’d be nothing…(…) I’ve been here a week now. Waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger. Each time I look around the walls move in a little tighter.” 

The “breaking the mirror” scene follows. With the two “messengers” appearing at Willard’s door, there is a sudden change of the POV. Willard turns from present into past and beginns to tell his story:

“Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I’d never want another.” (the scene with the shower follows) “I was going to the worst place in the world, and I didn’t even know it yet. Weeks away and hundreds of miles up a river …”

The rest of the voiceover is written in the past tense. 

It almost looks like Willard who is still (again?) in Saigon recalls his whole mission. As if his story made a full loop and he ended exactly in the place he was starting from… I wonder if it was intentional or just a side effect of re-cutting the movie for the x-th time.

TV: Broken Arrow

12 08 2008

… the story about a famous chief of Chiricahua Apache tribe. The movie is from 1950 and I have a blurred memory of it from my childhood. I suspect the storyline has not much in common with history, but the movie-Cochise was the one who chooses peace, in contrary to militant Geronimo, so the name O’Neill gives Elias in the script somehow makes sense. Even the tribe is the same (reference)

PS: Movie Cochise has a scar on his right cheek, even if the old photographs show the real Cochise had none. Not that it makes sense, but I had to smile seeing it.

Sidetracks: Ho Chi Minh Sandals

12 08 2008

Worn by VietCong. Finally found a decent photo of them HERE

TV: Any Given Sunday

9 08 2008

Just watched it. I don’t really relate to the subject. Or maybe I should have watch the movie ONLY, without trying to finish editing this blog at the same time…

Too many people talking at the same time didn’t help to understand the dialogues, but the cinematography is outstanding. Great stunts, great atmosphere, great sound — I almost regret I haven’t seen it on the big screen. It had this “you are there” feeling in the game sequences.

John McGinley looking super-sleazy didn’t fit into the cast somehow. Too overdone IMO. There is Oliver Stone as a commentator. And — as Michael Carlson stated in his book — there is an Indian in the movie, even if he’s uncredited: To my great surprise I recognized fragments of the soundtrack as coming from Robbie Robertson’s Music for The Native Americans. I discovered the CD by incident few years ago.

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