What are famous Vietnamese films

7 outstanding Vietnam films

The Vietnam War collided at a time when Hollywood was looking for more realistic subjects and characters. The result is a sub-genre of its own in the film: 7 outstanding examples.

The Vietnam War, which began as the Indochina War, ended 40 years ago. It was the longest armed conflict since the Second World War, and it was the first war that penetrated the living room via television and photo reporters - with completely uncensored images.

Journalists were able to move around freely in the war zone and even use the structures of the US Army, which is completely unthinkable today. The horror of war was served up in pictures early on at home. The protest against the war was superimposed on the concerns of the American counterculture to create a social fuel in which the civil rights movement, hippie culture, anti-war marches and the political emancipation movement "’68" were mixed up.

At the time of New Hollywood, when the dream forge was looking for new, more realistic and less heroic subjects and characters, US films discovered the abyss of "’ Nam "early on. And in the process created a new sub-genre: the Vietnam film.

1. "Good Morning Vietnam" (1987)

A more relaxed gallop for the list: radio presenter Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) was sent to Vietnam in 1956 to keep the US soldiers stationed there in a good mood. His jovial sense of humor and his penchant for rock'n'roll quickly make him the darling of his listeners, the hero of the troops, and a nuisance to his direct superiors. When Cronauer is confronted with the injustice of the war, his laughter threatens to pass quickly: bombs explode around him, he narrowly escapes an attack (not applicable to him), and a young Vietnamese woman he meets rejects him. The trenches are too big.

The poetry of the script authors was also great: the film is roughly based on a true biography, but the real Cronauer complained that only 45 percent of the film corresponded to reality. For the cinema there was a little more drama, but above all a little more joke: “Good Morning Vietnam” is a not too depressing side story of the brutal war, carried by the recently deceased Robin Williams in one of his first major roles.

2. "Apocalypse Now", 1979

A monster. A trip to hell. A surreal journey into the «heart of darkness», as the title of the book by Joseph Conrad promised. Francis Ford Coppola, at the peak of his self-confidence after his success with the first two parts of “The Godfather”, was planning a film colossus that should be “ripe enough for the Nobel Peace Prize”. A soul look into the abyss of man, a psychotherapeutic confrontation with evil, whitewashed in the colors of the hangover years after the collapse of the flower power illusion. Instead of going to the Congo, like Conrad in his novel, Coppola sent a convoy of US soldiers to the remote jungle of Cambodia during the Vietnam War to track down and eliminate a renegade colonel.

In terms of genre, Coppola's monumental work is most likely a road trip, at the end of which madness awaits. The search of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) for Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) leads right through purgatory, through Napalm volleys with Wagner droning, into the armed refuge of a subservient sect, and finally deep into the psyche of a tortured ex-soldier, the Pointlessness and the excesses of violence of this war have made a tyrant out of conviction.

Hardly any other film before, like “Apocalypse Now” - and especially the extended version “Apocalypse Now Redux”, which was released 20 years later - has not dealt so intensely with the question of what unleashed violence does to people only with the victim, but also with the perpetrator. Coppola demanded more than a year of production time from his staff on location in the Philippine jungle. A time of extremes: Coppola's wife made a documentary about it, in which it becomes clear how the film team, in their search for human madness, almost fell prey to it. «We were in the jungle. We were too many. We had access to too much money, too much equipment - and gradually we went insane, ”the boss sums up.

3. "The Deer Hunter" (1978)

A year before Coppola's colossus, “The Deer Hunter” was released, which was to set the tone for most of the following Vietnam films: Films that no longer tell heroic stories, but depict characters with all their contradictions in the critical spirit of New Hollywood. Unlike Coppola's work, “The Deer Hunter” is not a war film about the brutality and senselessness of everyday war life, but about the deep traces it leaves behind.

Released just three years after the end of the Vietnam War, the film was one of the first to bring an impression of the psychological horror and emotional upheavals that young soldiers brought back from Vietnam and that afterwards barely made it into society. This required character actors, and the film had them: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and John Savage played the leading male roles, there was also great applause for Meryl Streep, who received the Oscar for best supporting actress in one of her first roles.

4. "Hair", 1979

The message: Singing, dancing, throwing in trips - everything is fine, as long as you make the jump in time. Otherwise you come back in the coffin. This is what happened to George Berger, the charismatic leader of a hippie gang: because he wanted to treat a friend to the army base for a few hours with a girl, he instead took her place in the uniform - and was promptly flown to Vietnam to go to war. In contrast to the stage version, Milos Forman's adaptation of the flower power musical, which is still popular today, offers little insight into the social utopias of the counter-movement of the swinging sixties, ignoring the political side of the anti-war movement, which was closely linked to the hippie era, and offers instead, a somewhat cute to infantile gait feeling.

"'Nam" here stands not only for the mostly absent, but always lurking horror of war, but also for everything that is worth dancing against: encrusted traditions, the authoritarianism of state power, the social elite - and any form of conformism in general . Convincing, however, still today: the stunning choreography, which gave the story a lot more substance than the blunt plot - and the sound: Sixties hymns, opulently implemented with elements of soul, gospel, and psychedelic rock. Soundtrack of an era that embodies hippie culture to this day.

5. "Full Metal Jacket", 1987

The Briton Stanley Kubrick discovered the Vietnam War relatively late. When "Full Metal Jacket" was released in 1987, the guns had been silent for almost 15 years, but the cinema has already formed the image of it as a false, incomprehensible and uncontrolled war. Kubrick assembled his film from two novel bases, and the dichotomy has given the film its shape. The first half in particular will be remembered: In a training camp for prospective Vietnam soldiers, an authoritarian flayer, Sergeant Hartmann, wears down every individual residue and every self-esteem of the young men. And that with such a filthy, obscene cursing and swearing vocabulary that every pleasure can only be felt as a deformed fantasy of violence. The conversion of young men into fighting machines through the drill, which ultimately turn against themselves - seldom has this analysis been seen with such obsessive care as with Kubrick. In “Full Metal Jacket”, neither the Vietnam War as a specific event nor the political or military decision-makers are criticized, but uniformity and the education for violence as such.

6. Born On The Fourth Of July, 1989

The trauma of those who have returned: Ron Kovic joins the elite marines as a young man, enters Southeast Asia full of belligerence and patriotic blindness - and returns broken. As a soldier, he witnessed a unit massacre of the Vietnamese civilian population, accidentally shoots a comrade in "Friendly Fire" and is ultimately so badly wounded that he only returns home in a wheelchair. The opinion of the American public about the war has already begun to change. Those returning home are not welcomed as heroes but as participants in an unnecessary and unjust war.

Almost like other broken homecomers, Kovic ends up as a drunkard who can only deal with prostitutes until he finally gets the hang of it and, as a veteran, begins to vehemently oppose the war. Oliver Stone's film, after “Platoon” and before “Heaven & Earth”, the second of his Vietnam trilogy, is not pure fiction, but is based on Kovic's autobiography with the same title. Stone, himself a Vietnam War veteran, immediately bought the film rights to the material - and thus not only shot the central film about the cathartic experiences of the returnees and the opposition of the veterans against the war, but also drove the main actor Tom Cruise to an impressively convincing performance . A great achievement.

7. "Three Seasons", 1999

Of course, it was not the Americans who suffered the greatest damage in the Vietnam War, but the Vietnamese population. It is therefore astonishing how quickly the two countries found a common diplomatic (and above all economic) basis. The comparatively rapid rapprochement was a consequence of the Vietnamese Doi Moi program, which pursued the goal of a socialist market economy after the failure of the planned economy doctrine by the victorious communist north in the 1980s. As a result, differentiated films about the war against the imperialist West became possible.

“Three Seasons” by the then 26-year-old US-Vietnamese director Tony Bui is one of the best known: The episode film revolves around a still shaken country that made the rapid leap from years of hardship of war through communist orthodoxy to a capitalist-oriented economic society but is haunted by ghosts from the past One of them is the former American GI James Hager (Harvey Keitel), who served in Vietnam and left a daughter. While he is looking for her, he twinks around the bars of Ho Chi Minh City, a city that is no longer the same and that has changed him too. A deeply melancholy film at a slow pace and with contrasting, splendidly colored scenes, which was awarded the audience and critics award at the Sundance Festival.

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TagesWoche has a focus on the end of the Vietnam War 40 years ago - more on this in the dossier.

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