I watched these two Clint Eastwood directed back to back in a 5 hour and somewhat draining experience. In terms of a subject within War films I want to talk about for my dissertation I'm still looking for the answer, these two films however have certainly helped bring me closer to that answer. In terms of the themes they cover I feel like I could write a dissertation on just these two films alone. Mostly the over-arching theme of both films is what does it mean to be hero in War? The lovely thing about these two films and answering this question is that it deals with this question from both points of view - the victorious Americans and the defeated Japanese but it comes from a director trying to a create a singular vision.
Flags of Our Fathers
Answering this question 'Who are the hero's in War?' Flags goes about it by portraying the lives of the men who lifted the American flag on top Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. There picture was taken at that moment and overnight the men became symbols of victory in war that the American public were getting tired about having their Husbands and Sons fighting in. The film asks the question of whether or not we ignore the grander picture and loss in life of War in favour of glorifying individuals and individual moments. The men involved begin to feel ashamed to an extent that they're the ones taking all the attention. It also throws into the question the media's role during War. The film wears its themes on its shoulders and is unfortunately rather dull but it is extremely interesting from a thematic point of view.
Letters From Iwo Jima
Letters from Iwo Jima is a wonderful film and to me is the much more interesting of two. Ignoring the fact that it's a much a better film that Flags in terms of pacing and character development the questions it answers from a Western cultural point of view are more challenging to answer. Once again it's biggest theme is Heroism. Of course the idea heroism for these Japanese men is much different to their enemies. Defend the Empire of Japan at all cost, even if it means taking your own life, that is what it means to be hero. All the men have families and friends they wish to return to but they face near certain death and no chance of seeing them again. Yet to surrender and give yourself a second chance is the cowards way out and you deserve to die a dishonourable death. The film tries to portray this philosophy from as empathetic and unbiased point of view as it can by having a number of characters take certain paths and the results of their choices. One soldier for example surrenders but is killed by American troops anyway. Another chooses to throw himself strapped with explosives under a tank, however the tanks never come and he survives. The film throws a number of moral choices such as these the viewers way.
More research is going to be needed but thoughts please? I'm very much interested is having just these two films as the focus for my dissertation. Is that a viable option?