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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Casualities of War

Last week I slept late mostly, preoccupied with finishing my newest oil-on-canvas creation. A still life painting of an eastern Indian village girl, trying to depict some of the lost innocence we have in an average Indian village life.
This blog is not about the painting, but a film I got to see late in the night that shocked and questioned me from inside. Brian De Palma film casualities of war had such an effect on me.
The war drama about the Vietnam War, starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn and filmed two decades ago was so real and fresh and intriguing in the present day clash of civilizations, ethnicities and religions across the world.
I’m not trying to be preachy about things like war and peace, but want to speak out about how I was touched.

The drama unfolds with a US patrolling team deep inside Vietnam fighting an exhaustive gorilla war with Viet Cong squads. Sergeant Tony Meserve (Sean Penn), who heads the patrol, kidnaps a teen aged woman from a village, considered an ally to Viet Cong.
Meserve and other three in the team treat the girl as a sex slave and beating and raping her repeatedly. One member of the squad Private First Class Max Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) resisted the crime, but in vain.

Than Thi Oanh (Thuy Thu Le), the Vietnamese woman grew ill and developed a persistent cough. When the squad was Onah was constantly coughing exposing them to the risk of getting caught.
As things grew worse and fear of being spotted by patrolling helicopters carrying a rape victim, Tony Meserve and three other killed her initially by stabbing and then pumping bullets intro her body. She falls off and dies finally. Erikson watches helplessly.

Deepely hurt emotionally Erikson refuses to let the secret die. He reports of the incident to seniors and was not taken seriously. Eventually, following an attempt on Eriksson's life by the squad, the four men who raped and killed Onah were court martialed.

In the final scene Erikson wakes up from a nightmare he was having of the incident only to find himself on a Metro train in San Francisco. He suddenly saw a Vietnamese-American student (also played by Thuy Thu Le) who resembles the kidnapped girl.
She leaves the train fearing Erikson’s constant watch, and forgot to take her scarf. Erikon runs behind her and returned the scarf, while she noticed something is troubling him, and guesses that she reminds him of someone.
The movie ended here hinting Erikson feeling better and coming over his guilt of not helping the victim girl to survive.

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