Published On: Sun, Sep 29th, 2019

Apocalypse Now: Vietnam Film from American Perspective

Platoon is a classic 1986 movie about a young American recruit sent to Vietnam who witnesses the horrors of war and its effect on his fellow soldiers.

Identifying With the Americans

Platoon follows the story of Chris Taylor (played by Charlie Sheen), a middle-class young man who has volunteered to go to Vietnam, and the group of men he is fighting with. Academic Michael Klein states that; “We quickly identify with the group of American soldiers, sympathize with their losses, share their ideological perspective: fear and hate of the shadowy evil forces (the Vietnamese NLF) who are arrayed against them in the jungle and who constitute an ever present threat to their life and security.”

So, right from the start of the film the audience is on the side of the Americans because we identify with them through the use of close-ups. We mostly identify with Chris due to the personal voice over narration he gives that tells us his thoughts and feelings.

Loss and Revenge

Two of the Americans that we started to form an attachment to are found dead by their fellow soldiers. They have been viciously murdered by the Vietnamese. Klein comments that; “Given the construction of the narrative we comprehend Chris and the other recruits’ anger, grief, and desire for revenge.”

The audience wants revenge as much as the soldiers and we sympathise with them because of their fallen comrades. This also makes the later scene in the Vietnamese village more understandable because we can see that the soldiers have motives behind their actions.

Because the audience is only given the course of events from one perspective – that of the Americans, it is obvious that we are more likely to share the point of view of Chris and the others.

Apocalypse Now: Vietnam Film from American Perspective

We have no understanding of the Vietnamese’s motives; all we see of them is that they are merciless killers. It is as Michael Klein says; “Platoon does not so much condemn the massacre of Vietnamese civilians as minimize and explain it.”

In the scene in the village, Chris is shown to have been badly affected by the events that have taken place. He threatens some of the Vietnamese and looks on as one of his fellow soldiers clubs one of them to death with his gun. Normally at this point the audience would be feeling sympathy for the victim, but the focus stays on Chris; it shows a close-up of his face after the event so we see his reaction to it. He shows remorse and we feel sympathetic towards him.

American Victory

The scene in the village isn’t presented as a Vietnamese tragedy. We can tell this from the scene that immediately follows it. The American soldiers are seen walking through the fields carrying Vietnamese children in their arms and on their shoulders.

There is a close-up of Johnny Depp’s character, the young and sympathetic Lerner who we identified with in the previous scene because of his skills as a translator for the Vietnamese and his kind nature. Michael Klein calls this scene “self-congratulatory” and he also says of it; “A candy bar or a hug are not adequate reparations for the imperialistic occupation and destruction of a hamlet, or of a country, its people, and its culture.”

The previous scene had shown the occupation of the Vietnamese village by the Americans, and this scene suggests they have been victorious, that they have done something to be proud of. It doesn’t explain what is going to happen to all the families whose lives they have turned upside down and it doesn’t suggest that we need to feel any sympathy for those people.

Platoon primarily portrays the events from an American perspective, largely because the narrator and main characters are American and these are who the audience identifies with. Vietnamese losses are viewed as our victories and attempted justifications are made for their tragedies.

About the Author

- I am an internet marketing expert with an experience of 8 years.My hobbies are SEO,Content services and reading ebooks.I am founder of SRJ News,Tech Preview and Daily Posts.

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