The Killing Fields (1984) - have no idea how I came across this film, because it seems all but disappeared from the public knowledge - I haven’t found a lot of people talking about it. Which is a shame. The Cambodian genocide is one of the worst, truly fucking loathsome things to have happened in the 20th century. It’s a disgraceful, glaring stain on our history. Vietnam war and other ill-famed events seem to have somewhat obscured this in our collective memory, thanks to years long denial and misrepresentation as ‘propaganda’, but it’s why I think people, especially the younger generations, need to keep up and educate themselves. It’s extremely upsetting to see some still not recognize the severity of such tragedy.
The film itself is very well made. For a topic that would be so easy to sensationalize, it never comes across as overly melodramatic or inappropriate, and a big part of that is because the most painful, harrowing parts of story are shown and felt from the perspective of a non-westerner. The characters and performances are the backbone that holds this film together - it doesn’t exploit history and instead builds its tension on character ‘human’ moments, their exchanges. Waterston is great, but Haing S. Ngor is incredible. The movie overall doesn’t avoid grim material, but Pran stumbling upon the infamous killing fields while attemping an escape from his already hellish existence, is haunting. One thing I also thought was how well the film translated that something ‘wrong’ in the air feeling at the beginning of the film, an almost surreal atmosphere capturing the sense that something very evil was about to happen.
My sole and biggest gripe is the soundtrack. It’s.... a choice. With some exceptions, I mostly found it to be very incoherent, jarring and ill-fitting, with no theme that would connect it as a whole. But regardless, if you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s very bleak and devastating, but it’s one of those important films that need to be seen for either their artistic or educational value.