Hearts And Minds

Hold On To Your Heart When Watching This Documentary Of The "Minds"
By Omar P.L. Moore/    SHARE
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Peter Davis' 1974 Academy Award-winning best documentary "Hearts And Minds" opens this Friday digitally remastered and restored, exclusively at the Cinema Village in New York City (and across the rest of the U.S. next month) and it remains as powerful and shocking now as when it was first released in the U.S. in 1975, in fact more so today given the present dual wars the U.S. is engaged in.  "Hearts And Minds" tracks the return home of several American soldiers from the horrors of the Vietnam conflict during the early 1970s.  Reliving the events of Vietnam and told in the way that the disturbing 1970s Winter Soldier testimony of the war was, Mr. Davis' documentary is a stunning powerhouse.  The film's principal strength is in its blurring of the lines of duty versus morality -- the training of soldiers to be completely inhuman in furtherance of a geopolitical objective versus the moral and legal principles in the theater of war -- specifically, avoiding the murder of innocent civilians.

"Hearts And Minds" most dramatically contrasts the peril and pride associated with fighting for one's country with the brutal effects of the mission to violently dismantle the Vietnamese in the communist North of that country.  We see Vietnamese families uprooted.  We see the indelible and disturbing footage of that very young naked girl hit by napalm running through the streets.  Just as unhinging is one returning soldier's account to a group of very young (seven or eight year-olds) grade school children about the justifications for killing in Vietnam.  He speaks matter-of-factly about following orders to "do the job" and justifies his actions with a racist mindset as well as a fervor only slightly more apparent than the oblivious manner in which he talks to the scores of students in attendance.  The cost of war is on full display and we are given a cautionary tale that still stings in 2009.  History repeats itself, as do the politicians, blurring from Eisenhower to Kennedy to Johnson to Nixon, and on and on.

The more black-and-white Mr. Davis' color film appears, the more complex it actually is.  War is an unfathomable hell, and the hearts of the Vietnamese civilian community have been shattered and torn asunder forever.  Yet the results of the damage done to the minds of the young American soldiers ordered to kill in service of an objective as part of their contract to join the military -- is just as devastating and unforgettable.

Featuring: Georges Bidault, Clark Clifford, George Coker and Kay Dvorshock.

"Hearts And Minds" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America.  Though the film is being re-released unrated, it has graphic war violence in its footage, crude language, disturbing accounts of war, nudity and sexual content.  The film's running time is one hour and 51 minutes.  The film is in the English, French and Vietnamese languages with English subtitles.

Copyright The Popcorn Reel.  2009.  All Rights Reserved.

Trailer: "Hearts And Minds"