In the Reader’s salute to veterans issue (November 12, 2015) where the editor and publisher listed their favorite war films, I think it would have been more meaningful if the Reader had also solicited a veteran’s choice for war films.
As a U.S. Army veteran here are my two unsolicited picks for war films that should be seen (especially by those who never served in the military): 1) “Johnny Got His Gun” (1971) by Dalton Trumbo and 2) “The Burmese Harp” aka “The Harp of Burma” (1956) a Japanese film directed by Kon Ichikawa.
In 1976 I was eight years outta the army when I went with my girlfriend and another couple to see “Johnny Got His Gun.” For a good ten minutes following the film none of us were able to speak as we were in shock. Anyone who is pro war and/or thinks there is glory in war should be forced to watch this film every day for the rest of his or her life.
Trumbo was one of those blacklisted in Hollywood because of the 1950s McCarthy Witch Hunts (“Trumbo,” a recently released film, is about Trumbo’s ordeal and stars Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Louis C.K., John Goodman and Helen Mirren.).
“Johnny Got His Gun” removes the false glory from war like no other film has ever done.
“The Burmese Harp” is easily the most spiritual antiwar film yet made. It takes place in Burma at the end of World War II and focuses on private Mizushima (Shôji Yasui) who embarks on a spiritual journey of selflessness by taking on the task of burying every dead Japanese soldier he finds as he travels throughout Burma.
In the film there are scenes where Mizushima and his former comrades communicate via a parrot, which is simply sublime, and at the end of the film a letter written by Mizushima is read to his former comrades (who are on a boat back to Japan) where he states that he cannot return to Japan until he has burried the last dead Japanese solder he finds in Burma.
A DVD of “The Burmese Harp” can be found at the East Bonner County Library and I have requested that they order a DVD of “Johnny Got His Gun.”