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The Killing Fields (1984)


John Drew
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I couldn't find an existing thread for this film, and thought that todays news of the death of Dith Pran, whose story was told in The Killing Fields, would be good reason to start one. I haven't seen the film in many years, but it was one of the better films to come out concerning the effects of the Vietnam War on neighboring countries.

Story here.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
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  • 3 years later...

Thank you for opening this thread. This one doesn't seem to have gotten much love here, over the years, and I'm not sure why. Underneath its grim realism, its topicality (especially for its time), and its general overall excellence, this film is also a great work of spiritual art, in my opinion. Although it has few overtly religious references, there are at least a couple that I noticed in my re-viewing last night. There may be others. Chime in if I've missed some.

The first occurred when Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg were reporting in the town of Neak Leung, which had been accidentally bombed by an American B-52. The two of them had just arrived and were rushing to try to get the story, amidst the chaos and carnage, when they happened to pass near a Buddha statue. Sydney didn't even notice, whizzed right on by it, but Pran did, and he briefly bowed to it, which caused him to lag behind Sydney, who couldn't immediately figure out where or why Pran had stopped. As brief as this incident was (a couple of seconds?), it bespoke Pran's spiritual nature, which would endure trial by fire soon enough.

The second occurred very near the end of the film, when Pran was trying to escape Cambodia, along with the very young son of his Khmer Rouge overload-turned-martyr, a man named Phat (who had placed his son's life in Pran's hands just before his death). It involves a simple Buddhist ceremony. To say more would spoil it for those who haven't seen the film – those who have seen it will surely know what I am talking about. From about the point where Phat first suspected, and then trusted, Pran, until the end, is filmmaking of the highest order. As with the end of Bresson's Au hasard Balthazar, I am simply unable to make it through this extended sequence without dissolving into tears, no matter how many times I see it.

Perhaps equally as good, though, is the earlier sequence, where Pran's journalist friends attempted to move heaven and earth to create a fake British passport for him, so that he could be evacuated from Cambodia along with them.

The film unflinchingly depicts the worst – but also the best – that man is capable of doing, to and for his fellow man. More than this, a film can not do.

P.S. Since the link in the post above, about Dith Pran's death, is now dead, here is a live link to one in the New York Times.

Edited by tenpenny

For the Word of God and God wills always and in all things to accomplish the mystery of his embodiment. – Maximus the Confessor

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