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Contemporary post war PTSD films.

Started by bgmnts, June 28, 2022, 11:58:32 PM

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bgmnts

I was thinking about the Vietnam War and how seminal that was on media and I got to thinking about Rambo and Taxi Driver and all these films that came out around that time that had a darker tone and an incredibly cynical truth to them.

First Blood is interesting as it's a relatively contemporary film detailing the harrowing PTSD of a post war soldier back in society. Obviously veterans of other wars probably weren't treated with as much contempt as Vietnam vets but it got me thinking.

Are there any other contemporary films that deal with this exact situation in previous wars or around the same time? Assume there are quite a few modern ones but it would be really interesting to see a contemporary film in the 20s or 50s portraying a shell shocked or ptsd suffering soldier. Just to see how they handled it.

Blumf

It's a bit of a stretch, but would Dead Man's Shoes (2004) count?

I think there's been a few around the Falklands war and The Troubles. Resurrected (1989) turns up on TalkingPictures occasionally, but I've never watched it.

dissolute ocelot

There's been a lot of adaptations of The Razor's Edge and Journey's End, both about World War One (Journey's End is traumatised people in the trenches awaiting another battle, The Razor's Edge is about an ex-pilot seeking a deeper meaning to life). Journey's End was first adapted in 1930, although Razor's Edge wasn't written till 1944 so it's possibly about World War Two as well. It's also the subtext of a lot of other films (although I think quite well hidden in e.g. the 1950s film of The Sun Also Rises which is theoretically about an impotent veteran but on screen mostly about bullfighting and other gee-whizz shit). Plus there's a lot of recent World War One shellshock films like Regeneration, but I guess that's not what you're asking.

The Best Years  Of Our Lives (1946) attempted to cover the full experience of veterans returning from World War Two (although I've not seen it).

More recently, there's The Hurt Locker and American Sniper.

QuoteThe Best Years  Of Our Lives (1946) attempted to cover the full experience of veterans returning from World War Two (although I've not seen it).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Till_the_End_of_Time_(film)

is very similar

SteveDave

"You Were Never Really Here" fits the bill I think?

Sebastian Cobb


Sebastian Cobb

Quote from: bgmnts on June 28, 2022, 11:58:32 PMAre there any other contemporary films that deal with this exact situation in previous wars or around the same time? Assume there are quite a few modern ones but it would be really interesting to see a contemporary film in the 20s or 50s portraying a shell shocked or ptsd suffering soldier. Just to see how they handled it.

Not seen it but this sounds good:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_O%27Clock_High

Also not seen but want to, mainly 'cos it stars Jane Fonda and Bruce Dern:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_Home_(1978_film)


Stigdu

It's basically an exploitation movie, but Combat Shock is pretty harrowing and deals with a Vietnam vet going slowly crazy and sinking into the abyss.

bushwick

Combat Shock and The Exterminator both feature Vietnam vets who arguably have PTSD. The Combat Shock dude suffers indignity after indignity, has a deformed eraserhead baby thing and goes nuts. The Exterminator deals with memories of seeing his mate decapitated in the Nam by killing criminals with a flamethrower. These are some great movies!

Edit: haha FFS stigdu beat me to it dude!

Herbert Ashe

Leave No Trace (2018) is the best 21st Century example I can think of.


Inspector Norse

There was a film adaptation of Kevin Powers' acclaimed novel The Yellow Birds, about a soldier returning from Iraq, a few years ago. Not seen it and it didn't get great reviews but has a decent cast, and it definitely fits this theme; the book was good.

Lordofthefiles


Noodle Lizard

The Card Counter from last year probably counts somewhat.

Sebastian Cobb

Quote from: Sebastian Cobb on June 29, 2022, 02:42:56 PMAlso not seen but want to, mainly 'cos it stars Jane Fonda and Bruce Dern:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_Home_(1978_film)

This film is incredible. Starts off as a romantic fling between Jane Fonda and one of the vets but ends up being a solid commentary on mental health, disability, loneliness etc. There's almost always a famous 60's/70's pop or rock song playing, god knows how much the licencing of all that cost.

The Beatles: Hey Jude, Strawberry Fields Forever; (EMI Records Inc.)
Big Brother and the Holding Company Featuring Janis Joplin: Call On Me; (Columbia Records)
Tim Buckley: Once I Was; (Elektra Records)
Buffalo Springfield: Expecting to Fly, For What It's Worth; (Atlantic Records)
The Chambers Brothers: Time Has Come Today; (Columbia Records)
Bob Dylan: Just Like a Woman; (Columbia Records)
Aretha Franklin: Save Me; (Atlantic Recording Corporation)
Richie Havens: Follow; (M&M Records Inc.)
Jimi Hendrix: Manic Depression; (Warner Bros. Records)
Jefferson Airplane: White Rabbit; (RCA Records)
The Rolling Stones: Out of Time, No Expectations, Jumpin' Jack Flash, My Girl, Ruby Tuesday, Sympathy for the Devil (ABKCO Records Inc.)
Simon & Garfunkel: Bookends; (Columbia Records)
Steppenwolf: Born to Be Wild; (ABC Records Inc.)

markburgle

Quote from: dissolute ocelot on June 29, 2022, 10:07:14 AMThe Best Years  Of Our Lives (1946) attempted to cover the full experience of veterans returning from World War Two (although I've not seen it).

I saw it and liked it, it has a maybe a too neat n tidy ending to be realistic but there's good details like how the lad with no hands was handled - his service buddies know instinctively to let him do things for himself but his family are rushing round doing everything for him and taking his agency away.

lipsink


Elderly Sumo Prophecy



Quote from: bgmnts on June 28, 2022, 11:58:32 PMAre there any other contemporary films that deal with this exact situation in previous wars or around the same time? Assume there are quite a few modern ones but it would be really interesting to see a contemporary film in the 20s or 50s portraying a shell shocked or ptsd suffering soldier. Just to see how they handled it.

There are two films from 1919 that show shell-shock in different ways: Nerven (1919), an early German expressionist film about a nervous epidemic in Germany after the war, and J'accuse (1919), a French film which shows the effects of the war on an individual soldier, Jean Diaz, and less severely his love rival and fellow soldier who twitches a bit and breaks down in tears while directing other soldiers through a trench. Jean's shell-shocked hallucinations are mixed with visionary qualities when he returns home and also intercut with death imagery. At the beginning of the second part of the film he hallucinates an owl, which has earlier been established as an ominous symbol, before being discharged with shell-shock, then returning to the war and coming back the second time with the ghosts of dead soldiers chasing him and following him to confront the living.

Writing about Nerven, Barbara Hales gives this background about the medical and moral distinctions that were made between neurasthenia and (weak-willed) hysteria and the associated theories of nervous contagion (which helped me get more out of the film):

Spoiler alert
QuoteAs the war progressed, psychologists and psychiatrists debated whetherthis form of mental illness was, in reality, a malingering condition. Doctors had diagnosed soldiers who were refusing to fight as "hysterical" and lack ing a "will to fight." 5 In his 1916 address to the War Congress of the German Association for Psychiatry, Robert Gaupp breaks down war neurosis into neurasthenia, with symptoms of chronic fatigue resulting from service on the frontlines, and male hysteria, resulting from a predisposition to illness (Gaupp, "Kriegsneurosen," 360). On the one hand, the causes of neurasthenia are found in the fatigue of body and spirit, resulting from the constant tension of trench life (363). Hysteria, on the other hand, is a psychopathological reaction to a psychologically stressful situation. In short, the illness of the hysteric lies in the man himself and not in wartime conditions (369). While the neurasthenic's fatigue can be treated by simple rest, the hysteric's fits, tremors, and paralysis cannot be easily treated (370–71). For psychiatrist Armin Steyerthal, hysteria yields a plethora of negative associations, including "psychopathic inferiority complex, degeneration, born criminality, pathological lies, simulation, exaggeration, conscious fraud, and female feebleness." 6

The medical understanding of war neuroses thus considers the war hysteric as a weak-willed individual prone to shirking and malingering rather than a casualty of war. In contrast to the neurasthenic, who has the will but not the stamina, the hysteric possesses a faulty genetic make-up, resulting in the rejection of the will to fight (Bonhoeffer, 58). The war hysteric's lack of "nerve" was an issue seen in the very method of treatment deemed acceptable by the psychiatric community. Eric Leed suggests that the harsh treatment of war neurotics, evident through faradization, solitary confinement, and other methods of coercion therapy, was an acknowledgement that neurosis was considered an illegitimate exit from the war (Leed, 165).

[...]

Robert Gaupp was not alone in considering the sheer number of hysterics in the war to be a threat for Germany: the best men were dying on the battlefield, while the unhealthy hysterics were left behind and declared unfit to serve in the war ("Kriegsneurosen," 389). During and after the First World War the German medical community came to express concern that the neurotic soldier would contaminate the home front with his alleged weakness of will. War doctors and psychiatrists feared that neurotic symptoms such as shaking could spread from soldier to soldier on the front, but also from the neurotic soldier to the community.

In a 1918 article entitled "Die Kriegsneurasthenie" (War Neurasthenia), for instance, psychiatrist Willy Hellpach notes that neurosis can befall both soldiers at the front and those on the home front (Hellpach, 180). He underscores the threat that the German people face after the war, questioning whether soldiers and front neurotics will carry their neuroses into peacetime. Neurosis thus could be passed on like a plague by soldiers returning from the front. In a similar manner, in 1920 psychiatrist Erwin Stransky wrote that the "physical and psychological cripples and degenerates" ("körperlichen und seelischen Krüppeln und Entarteten") present a danger of infection not only for the German community but also for the entire world (Stransky, 273). In Germany, this contagion would ultimately be associated with the socialist uprising that ushered in the new political system of 1919.
[close]

Anton Kaes has also interpreted Weimar Cinema as 'shell-shock' cinema in various ways. For example, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari can be seen as a film about the treatment of war neurotics at the time.

Jean's visions in J'accuse:




































From the beginning of Nerven:

"Mother! Mother! A thousand miles from the homeland your son is dying."



"Murderer... who stops at nothing."

"Flee... you are lost. Outside the hunters."


(This compulsive murderer scene anticipates Fritz Lang's M)

"You tremble.
My nerves were steel, but since then..."


"Since then I've seen the spirits of the dead rise up as terrible avengers... against us... against me"


"Am I a coward?"

"I am no coward!"



"Why?
I don't know"

"To the wall."


"We have lost our second child."


The part where he's shot by firing squad seems like it might be meant to nightmarishly evoke punishment for desertion as well as showing the punishment for the axe murder.

There's a scene in M where the police looking for the murderer go through the records of people who have been released from psychiatric hosptials as cured or harmless.



The blind balloon seller who identifies Beckert by his whistling also has a scene in a bar where after hearing whistling music from some sort of arm-cranked music box he puts his hands to his ears. This strangely mirrors Beckert putting his hands to his ears while whistling in the street but I wondered if here he could be reminded of the whistling of artillery shells.






These documentaries might be more upsetting to watch.

War Neuroses: Netley Hospital, 1917 (1918)

War Neuroses and Arthur Hurst: A Pioneering Medical Film about the Treatment of Psychiatric Battle Casualties, Edgar Jones

QuoteFrom 1917 to 1918, Major Arthur Hurst filmed shell-shocked patients home from the war in France. Funded by the Medical Research Committee, and using Pathé cameramen, he recorded soldiers who suffered from intractable movement disorders as they underwent treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley and undertook programs of occupational therapy at Seale Hayne in Devon. As one of the earliest UK medical films, Hurst's efforts may have drawn inspiration from the official documentary of the Battle of the Somme and films made in 1916 by French Army neurologists. Although initially motivated to make use of a novel medium to illustrate lectures, Hurst was alert to the wider appeal of the motion picture and saw an opportunity to position himself in the postwar medical hierarchy. Some "before treatment" shots were reenacted for the camera. Hurst, like some other shell shock doctors, openly used deception as a therapeutic measure. On the basis that the ends justified the means, they defended this procedure as ethical. Clinicians also took advantage of changes in military regulations to address functional symptoms. Claims made of "cures" in the film and associated publications by Hurst were challenged by other doctors treating shell shock. The absence of follow-up data and evidence from war pension files suggested that Hurst may have overstated the effectiveness of his methods. Nevertheless, the message conveyed in the film that chronic cases could be treated in a single session had a powerful resonance for ambitious or charismatic doctors and was revived in World War II.

John Huston directed a Second World War trauma documentary called Let There Be Light in 1946 but it wasn't released until 1980. There's a moment in the documentary where the ambiguity of the phrase 'a display of emotion' makes one of the patients think he's being accused of exaggerating his distress.

Ant Farm Keyboard

These are TV shows, but both Barry (the titular character) and You're the Worst (Edgar) have dealt with characters who suffer from PTSD. It's also mentioned during the first season of For All Mankind, when Gordo and Danielle's husband compare the trauma left by their experience in Korea and Vietnam, with the issue affecting Gordo later during the season.

And of course, there's the PPSD from Rain of Madness, the fake Werner Herzog documentary that's an extra on Tropic Thunder, the famous Post Platoon Stress Disorder that affects actors who have played military parts.