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October 1996, Week 3


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 12:53:29 -0600
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Susan Crutchfield wonders:
"This question is making me think again about the narration from
various points of view (and from different motivating
circumstances) of the "heroic incident" in *Courage Under Fire*.  More
than anything, the multiplicity of narrators and stories suggests that all
points of view are unreliable (especially in a stressful, combat
situation).  The problem of truth--what really happened in the
desert--looms large here.  Of course, the final narrative of the
"incident" is privileged as the truth of what happened--it is the version
of the story used as evidence in persuading the govt. commission to
award Meg Ryan's character a posthumus medal of honor.
A question:
How is this privileging accomplished after point-of-view, and more
importantly the camera's ability to show us one undeniable truth,
has been called into question, perhaps even undermined?"
I'd have to see the film again to be sure, but I think the "privileging is
motivated as the mental reconstruction of the event by Denzel Washington's
character.  The other flashbacks all accompany narratives by different
characters who had been eyewitnesses and the conflicts in their testimony
call them into question.
Once Lou Diamond Phillips' character has committed suicide, the way is clear
for a full reconstruction of events.  (But I'm not certain about this
exact sequence.)
In any event, I've been rather surprised at the way reviewers and others were
comparing the film to RASHOMON and other problematized narratives (favorably
or unfavorably), when the film actually has a very clear mystery structure.
Compare Lumet's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS for a similar structure, one
that is certainly common in Agatha Christie's works--the need to smoke out
lies and to establish and clear and "true" narrative.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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