Friday, March 01, 2013
LET THERE BE LIGHT (1946)
Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master just came out for home video. I have been waiting for this since its release, because the screening I attended at The Uptown in Minneapolis was so horrible I could only understand half the film. The other reason I have been waiting is because it was filmed in 70mm, which gave it a crazy high def image. The version I saw was a 35mm print, and it still looked great, but I had longed to see that 70mm projection because the reviews for it were stellar. Anyway, because of that 70mm print I decided to go with the bluray for this release. I figured it would be as close as I would get to replicating the presentation that P.T. Anderson had intended.
One of the extras on the disc is John Huston's Let There Be Light, the third of his WW2 documentaries. It deals with soldiers that came back from the war shell shocked; their psychological wounds so profound that they required care to even begin adjusting to life after the horrors of war. Evidently the Army wasn't pleased with the end result, and for 30 years they wouldn't allow it to be screened to the public. There was even an event at the Museum of Modern Art where they were set to show it, and as the audience was being seated the military came in and confiscated the print.
When you watch Let There Be Light you will see why it was withheld from view for so long. This is not a film for the squeamish. The invisible damage you see these men confronting and living with is horrible and shocking and unbearable. The suffering you see is truly heartbreaking. This is not flags and lawn mowers and baseball... This is rough rough stuff. Let There Be Light is powerful and uncomfortable and eye opening. The access that Huston had with patients and staff is almost voyeuristic. What he captured is difficult to watch, but it is riveting, and it is a side of war that we ignore at our peril.
I'm bookending Let There Be Light with two interview segments that John Huston did for television, where he discusses the film and its controversy. The interview helps put it in perspective and give some understanding of the project and the issue it deals with.
Again, this is tough stuff. It's o.k. if you're made uncomforable by this. Nobody should be comfortable with this.