War Films From The "Losing" Side
April 27, 2006 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I was reading reviews of movies about the US war in Vietnam, and found myself wondering how to track down Vietnamese films about the same period. Then I extended the question.

I'm looking for suggestions on film (or television) productions that feature the perspective of either "the enemy" or "the loser".

I'm not looking specifically for materials about wars in which the US was heavily involved, but I'm most interested in perspectives on wars in which there was either a clear military "victor" or for which the predominant consensus is that one side wound up faring much better, in the end, than the other.

Some very broad examples (not intended to limit which wars are discussed):

- World War II films from the German, Italian or Japanese perspective.

- Vietnam war films from the Vietnamese perspective, either South or North.

- Gulf War films (either I or II) from the Iraqi perspective.
posted by scrump to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Das Boot
posted by jessenoonan at 12:41 PM on April 27, 2006

Well, I don't think there are many Vietnamese films about the war because Vietnam has never had a very highly developed film industry. The only one I've ever heard of is Three Seasons, which deals in part about an American vet returning to modern Saigon. It's an excellent movie, but perhaps not exactly what you're looking for. In addition, you may want to read The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh.

The same thing kind of goes for the Iraqi film industry, though there is that Turkish one they just released that deals with Americans doing horrible things during the most recent Gulf War. I think it has "wolf" in the title somewhere.

As for WWII, you can check out the German movie Stalingrad about, well, the German invasion of Stalingrad. It's not all that amazing of a movie, but it does paint the Germans as the losers.
posted by borkingchikapa at 12:46 PM on April 27, 2006

Downfall (Der Untergang) is a painful (but good and accurate) film about the last days of the Third Reich, in Berlin. Most of the movie is in Hitler's bunker.

Shaka Zulu covers a Zulu warrior vs. the British in South Africa.
posted by jellicle at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2006

Yeah, you won't find too many Iraqi films on this topic (or at all).

"The film industry collapsed under the UN sanctions due to lack of funding and filmmakers. Audiences had to make do with television, which was not much of an artistic haven, Salam said. The state-run TV station, Shabab TV, would mostly steal films from other stations. The task of carrying on the history of Iraqi film fell to those outside the country.

Saad Salman, an Iraqi filmmaker exiled in France for thirty years returned undercover in 2000 to make a film on the effects of Saddam’s regime. Interviewees included a broken woman who had three sons and her husband executed in front of her and a depressed man who had his ear cut off and now couldn’t wear glasses. The grenade which was used as a weight when selling potatoes and the roadsign
exclaiming “Welcome to Helabja” showed the horror of everyday suffering. "

posted by mattbucher at 12:52 PM on April 27, 2006

Another vote for Downfall.
posted by PenDevil at 12:55 PM on April 27, 2006

Volker Schlöndorff's The Ogre and The Tin Drum are two excellent - and peculiar! - views of Nazi-era Germany.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:57 PM on April 27, 2006

I HIGHLY recommend Beautiful Country. It's about a young man, whose father is a former American GI and his mother is Vietnamese - hence, the movie opens with the translation of "bui doi" - 'less than dust,' which is a slur commonly given to children of mixed Vietnamese & white American origin arising out of the Vietnam War.

I don't want to say any more, as some people prefer to go into a movie knowing nothing of the plot. Here is the Metacritic link if you want to see more reviews.
posted by invisible ink at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Twenty-Four Eyes is a film set in a small Japanese town during and after the war, not so much about the war but directly touching upon it.

I had a whole class about Japanese film and post-war memory, but there's not a whole lot I remember about it.
posted by Jeanne at 1:20 PM on April 27, 2006

All Quiet on the Western Front

Probably of particular interest to you is the scene where the protagonist is caught in a foxhole with an french soldier and kills him, but then reflects on the humanity of the enemy.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2006

Taegukgi is a Korean film about the Korean war.
posted by Jairus at 1:41 PM on April 27, 2006

Grave of the Fireflies is a beautiful animated movie that takes place right at the end of the Second World War and immediately after it. It follows the fates of two siblings, orphaned by the war. Its a Japanese telling of the period and one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen.

Millennium Actress is another animated feature from Japan. While the main story is not focused on the Second World War, it does devote a portion to the pre-war and wartime militaristic atmosphere, as well as a little afterwards.

Don't be thrown off by the fact that they're animated, both are great films.
posted by Atreides at 2:15 PM on April 27, 2006

All Quiet on the Western Front is an excellent account of World War I trench warfare from the German perspective.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:50 PM on April 27, 2006

The Blue Max is about German fighter pilots during World War I.

Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron is about a German infantry squad on the Russian front during World War II.

Gone With the Wind
posted by kirkaracha at 3:59 PM on April 27, 2006

Not 100% within your brief but interesting none the less: Bullet In The Head (dir. John Woo) shows the Viet Nam war from the perspective of a group of young Hong Kong men who go over there seeking moneymaking opportunities.
posted by Hogshead at 4:17 PM on April 27, 2006

War films from the Losing side?

- World War II films from the German, Italian or Japanese perspective.
- Vietnam war films from the Vietnamese perspective, either South or North.
- Gulf War films (either I or II) from the Iraqi perspective.

One of these things, I just have to point out, is not like the other.

I know you've put "Losing" in inverted commas, but still.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:39 PM on April 27, 2006

In addition to Atreides reccomendations (Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most emotionally intense movies I've ever seen), Barefoot Gen is another great Japanese animated WWII film.

Actually, there are a ton of great Japanese war and post-war films. Unfortunately, the only other one I can think of is Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (which only has one vignette about anti-nuclear power, though obviously inpsired by Kurosawa's experience with Hiroshima).

Second Bullet in the Head and Millenium Actress (though at all a war film).

I'm surprised no one mentioned Das Boot.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:00 PM on April 27, 2006

See first post.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:56 PM on April 27, 2006

Third Bullet in the Head -- IMO John Woo's best movie, but often overlooked. Due to its Hong Kong origins, though, there are very few American characters.
posted by neckro23 at 12:18 AM on April 28, 2006

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most emotionally intense movies I've ever seen

Yes indeed. Strongly recommended.

Actually, there are a ton of great Japanese war and post-war films.

I agree with this too; in fact, Japan is probably your best bet for the kind of thing you're looking for. Just the other night I saw Ugetsu, which is one of the most powerful antiwar movies I've ever seen; it's set in the 16th century, but it was made just a few years after WWII and is clearly soaked in the emotions of that war.
posted by languagehat at 6:36 AM on April 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Downfall.

Hotel Rwanda is great too, but maybe not quite what you're looking for.
posted by ajp at 6:45 AM on May 2, 2006

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