This is the best documentary I have ever seen, made before the final humiliating pull-out in 1975. Great detail has been given in an earlier review so I won't attempt the same, but if you want to see the full horror of Vietnam, not in a commentary but in words of people involved,and the images of war and brutality, then buy this DVD. The lunacy of American policy becomes plain in the words of the policy makers themselves, as is their almost total ignorance of the Vietnamese people and their insensitivity to human suffering. Sadly, you also realise that they seem to have learned nothing from the war because in Iraq and in foreign policy generally they show the same attitudes and ignorance. Buy it - you won't be disappointed.
The Vietnam war was the most photographed and broadcast war in history. Nightly news arrived in our living rooms pretty much unfiltered documenting the shocking story day by day. Peter Davis set out to make a documentary about the conflict which sought to present the war without some sanitising voiceover filtering the impact. "Hearts & Minds" is the result.
The film simply documents both the shocking and the banal and despite there being nothing to link this film by ways of a voiceover it has an impressive narrative power. The images are very powerful. The infamous shot of the girl running naked from a napalm attack and the Vietcong man shot in the head are both shocking and iconographic still photos here shown as live and in motion, doubly shocking for being in vivid colour. This film has an extraordinary power.
What shocks most are the desperate justifications by Government officials and the blinding racist ignorance of some of the fighting people. Many see the people of Vietnam as less than human which must have shocked then and still does now. It is more incredible that this was completed before the war ended and yet despite that there is an awful sense of finality about it.
The testaments of the Vietnamese people who have seen their families and loved ones die, and their homes and livlihoods destroyed are moving as are the American soldiers trying to piece together their lives after some shocking injuries. The film manages to find a voice for every experience of the war and gives none of them precidence, just a moment in front of an unblinking camera. The conclusions come from the undeniable fact that what is taking place is dreadfully wrong. Even the voices in favour seem unable to utterly justify their actions.
Watching in our world of media management and spin it seems impossible a war could be covered like this today. Yet despite this the war on terror hangs over this film like a cloud of burning napalm. The message today seems to conclude that nothing has been learnt and something similar has been taking place on the streets of Kabul and Bagdhad for the past few years. You may never get to see the truth of that but here is a very good indication of what the reality of that, or any conflict, must be like for all involved.
One of these reviewers said "best documentary he's ever seen"....?. He obviously hasn't seen many documentaries then. This was just full of interviews with veterans over and over again, with a few graphic shots thrown in to keep the viewer interested. The 'iconic' video of the police chief executing a vc fighter with a pistol shot to the head, and the young girl running down the road after her village was hit with a napalm strike. The rest of the gaps were filled in with more yawnamatic clips we've all seen before. You'd probably learn nearly as much simply watching full metal jacket or platoon !!. Disappointing.
An exceptionally good documentary. I love documentaries and rented this because it got good reviews and I didn't know a huge amount about the Vietnam war. I wasn't disappointed. There is no real narrative and no commentary, but this documentary conveys the horrors of the Vietnam war expertly.
This film uses war footage, interviews with soldiers, politicians, parents, victims, and is expertly edited in a way that the horror of the Vietnam war, is felt with a tangible force.
It's interesting, and heartbreaking to watch in the context of current events. American presidents lied to their citizens, waged war on false pretexts, started wars they didn't know how to finish and served untold horrors onto innocent people 30 years ago, and yet current administrations don't seem to have learnt a hell of a lot. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they recycled some of the speeches from back then - some of them sound depressingly familiar!
It's a painful film to watch but its a worthwhile exercise. I can't say I 'enjoyed' it, but I was never bored. It's too easy to forget the human tragedy that accompanies the decisions to go to war, and it's the kind of film that people should watch lest they forget just how raw and destructive war is.
I found 'Hearts & Minds' to be a thorough examination in why war is always a terrible and brutal occurence and why in every single case and no matter what country is involved through the decades it is the innocent that suffer (whether civilian or military). The documentary begins by highlighting the quiet village life of the 'typical' Vietnamese villager and then progressively exposes the viewer to how innocence and life is destroyed as war evolves and consumes. Bottom line with 'Hearts & Minds' is that it does a commendable job in illustrating how the Vietnam War was a result of Western Government's (USA's) 'false' fear that communism would take over the world if not checked (The Domino Theory) along with some hidden political agendas that become apparent as the footage unfolds. The film also illustrates how the American / western people were as innocent as the Vietnamese in that in they didn't really understand the 'reasons' for the war? The serving US troops are shown in a slightly less favourable light (as is to be expected) however the film makers do a good job of demonstrating how the soldiers were 'pawns' of the US administration and as innocent as the US families and Vietnamese villagers in the mix of it all. I couldn't see the point of donating 5 minutes of footage to two GI's in a room with Vietnamese girls that had become prostitutes or what point this scene was trying to convey? But 'all in all' it is the US government that 'rightly' comes out of the documentary as the chief 'villain' eventhough the individuals at the very top were themselves totally ignorant of the Vietnamese Country, culture, people and how all the Vietnamese have wanted throughout history is to be 'free & independant'of all invaders whether western or communist. The $200m dollars per day of military aid that North Vietnam received from the USSR / China during the conflict isn't alluded to for whatever reason (maybe at the time of filming in 1974 this wasn't known). Anyway 'Hearts & Minds' is totally worth the purchase price and my only 'other' advice would be view it side by side with some other 'rated' documentaries on the subject matter to really give an 'all angles' viewpoint!
I've just watched this documentary and it has impressed, appalled and educated me. It's expertly filmed and edited, the print and transfer are impeccable and it looks like it was made yesterday. The film is a clear and powerful perspective on the true nature of warfare and the true idiocy of US foreign policy during the Vietnam war. It allows the participants to tell their own stories and often gives them just enough rope to hang themselves in the process. Some of the military and political comment has to be heard to be believed! The people of Vietnam also tell their stories and appear far more humane and informed than their aggressors (except when fighting for the latter). It's difficult to view this outstanding film without drawing parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. Please see for yourself. NOTE: the documentary contains some harrowing scenes of death and mutilation but they are in context and VERY necessary illustrations.