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Hearts and Minds film

Hearts and Minds film
After reading the Hearts and Minds film review, answer the three following questions:
1- What is the film director’s purpose in making this film? Give evidence to back up your answer.
2- What is his perspective on the Vietnam War? Give evidence to back up your perspective.
3- How did this film impact you? Explain.
‘Hearts and Minds,’ a Film Study of Power
Power is virtually the first word heard in Peter Davis’s epic documentary, “Hearts and Minds,” and power, real and mythical, is what the film contemplates in as many tones and moods as you might expect in superior fiction.
“Hearts and Minds,” which opened yesterday at the Cinema 2, recalls this nation’s agoninzing involvement in Vietnam, something you may think you know all about, including the ending. But you don’t. Just as television’s presentation of the war made it seem small, orderly and comprehensible, to fit the physical dimensions of the television set and the programing schedules of the television industry, “Hearts and Minds” deals in disorderliness, contradictions and historical perspectives that are often shadowy, subject to any number of interpretations.

Mr. Davis, who made the award-winning television documentary. “The Selling of the Pentagon,” makes no attempt to justify the American involvement in Vietnam, which, it’s obvious, he believes to have been a disaster. “Hearts and Minds,” however, is so various, so full of associations that go beyond the war, that the film does a lot more than preach to the committed.

Some sympathetic, liberal critics—listening to their own well-meaning, must-be-fair-to-everyone consciences—have expressed sorrow that Mr. Davis has occasionally loaded his dice, that he has allowed himself to make points cheaply by, for example, cross-cutting between a pious Gen. William C. Westmoreland talking about the cheapness of life in the Orient and a small Vietnamese boy’s sobbing at a gravesite. This is correct as far as it goes, but to dwell on it is to miss the more profound meaning of an extraordinary movie, which may well be the true film for America’s bicentennial.

“Hearts and Minds” is not about General Westmoreland, nor the succession of United States Presidents and their advisers who sought desperately and probably sincerely to understand Vietnam. Rather it’s about the generations of attitudes, wishes and beliefs that these men represented. It’s about the power the country inherited.

Mr. Davis uses old newsreel footage as well as new material that he shot in Vietnam, in this country and in France. He also uses clips from old Hollywood movies and dozens of interviews with peasants and policy-makers, with American civilians and fighting men, some of whom survived as physical wrecks and some of whom returned home more convinced than ever of America’s mission to save the world from what J. Edgar Hoover and Lyndon B. Johnson pronounced “Comun-ism.”

An interview with Clark Clifford, the former Secretary of Defense, at the beginning of the film sets what I take to be the theme when Mr. Clifford recalls the extraordinary economic, military and industrial power the United States found itself with at the end of World War II. The film then goes on to examine the nearly suicidal effects of that power when it was explained, justified, defined and, in particular, when it was wielded as something that had been God-given rather than as something inherited through one of the most marvelous accidents — the unplanned conjunction of people, place and time—in recorded history.

I don’t think the film means to knock American achievements but only to point out that a certain lack of perspective, of modesty, perhaps, can be close to fatal.

“Hearts and Minds” has a lot to say about an average American’s education and, indeed, about his ability to reeducate himself as conditions change. At one point Daniel Ellsberg remembers having looked at Vietnam in gung-ho World War II terms, when it was possible easily to distinguish the good guys from the bad, to see a war clearly in terms of territory won and lost. Vietnam was something terrifyingly new to the World War II people. The origins and the issues were not neat and tidy.

This is what “Hearts and Minds” so vividly recognizes in a collage of scenes that, though blunt and often harrowing, eventually demonstrate something that I. F. Stone once said about the survival of the Vietnamese people through years of bombing. Their incredible survival, said Mr. Stone, has reestablished “the primacy of man in the age of technology.”

“Hearts and Minds” is a tough film but it is no mere rehash of sad events. It is always aware of the primacy of man when man’s given even half a chance.

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