How Do Frank Capra's "Prelude To War" And John Huston's "Let There Be Light" Differing Purposes/Points Of View/Approaches To The Subject Shape Each Film's Form And Production Method?

1060 words - 4 pages

In the era preceding, during, and after World War Two, documentaries and real-life depictions about the war, veterans, patriotism, post-war trauma...etc., exploded on the home front. John Huston's "Let There Be Light" and Frank Capra's "Prelude To War" are both documentary films about World War Two, however filmed for very divergent purposes and in very different angles. This paper will attempt to explore and compare the differences of both wartime documentaries, and evaluate the effectiveness of their balance between artifice and authenticity.Huston's 1946 film "Let There Be Light" was filmed with the intent to document the treatment and rehabilitation of psychologically damaged World War Two veterans. However, due to the explicit images of stumbling, shell-shocked soldiers, the United States War Department forbade civilian circulation on grounds that the film was demoralizing and detrimental to military participants.While Huston battled US officials for permission to release "Let There Be Light," Capra's film "Prelude To War" was paid for by the government. This 1942 documentary was a powerful propaganda piece which chronicled the events leading up to World War Two, including the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy, and the Japanese attack on China. The film was intended to stir up support for the war effort."Let There Be Light" conveys a range of viewpoints and purposes: 1) To create a sympathetic documentary on the recovery of the psycho-neurotic soldier which would educate civilians to accommodate and accept them into society. 2) To depict post-war conditions which were more horrific than the battlefield. 3) To demonstrate that neurotic problems could be successfully treated, but at the same time the audience is left to ponder the fate of those patients who did not recover.Huston brought his cameras to Mason General mental hospital in Long Island, where the patients' interactions with the psychiatrists were recorded and filmed. Huge 35 mm cameras and sound recording equipment were permanently set up accompanied by a large crew of technicians. Opening statements make clear of Huston's intention of being a storyteller: "No scenes were staged. The only direction was tactical. Where do you put your cameras? Then how to tell the story? Or how to let the story tell itself? I didn't impose anything. The stories were sufficient."A ship branded by a large Red Cross streams into the opening scene of the film. Narrating the film is Walter Huston, John's father. Curious men glance out toward the hopes of the shores. Nurses and male attendants fill the decks, and as patients struggle to disembark, they watch their heavy shadows move across the side of the ship. The cameras track their anguished souls, their fearful hearts, and some lost faith in humanity. `Here are men who tremble; men who cannot sleep; men with pains that are nonetheless real because they are of a mental origin. Men who cannot remember; paralyzed men, whose paralysis is dictated by the...

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