Whether you are an officer flying above enemy territory in an assault helicopter, or a news reporter covering the story of a military attack, the POV, or point of view, from which an event is experienced determines to a large degree how the story is told. With a situation as controversial at the Vietnam War, it is no surprise that there were rarely consistent perspectives on the events taking place in Vietnam.
Of course, is it simply human nature to skew situations or events to represent them in your favor, however, when it comes to fatal battles being fought between two world countries, it is important that the situations are represented as accurately as possible. The world deserves to be able to formulate their opinions regarding an event such as the Vietnam War, and in order to do that properly, an accurate, consistent, truthful “POV” is necessary.
Combat films such as The Sounds of Iwo Jima and westerns such as The Alamo and Fort Apache worked in favor for the United States because the stories they told reinforced Americans and their ideas about themselves as people. Many of the stories and tales told during World War II illuminated America’s excellence when it came to democracy and liberty, and were told with the intentions of boosting American moral.
When it comes to the early Saturday morning of March 16, 1968, however, the perspective from which the story is told could be the determining factor between American support and sympathy for the Vietnamese village of Son My. The point of view from those at ground level is completely different from those of American soldiers 1000 feet in the sky. So how are we to approach films that wish to portray history accurately when there are so many contradicting perspectives within every circumstance?
The problem with this portrayal through film is that even at their best, filmic realism is false or misleading. As explained in chapter 16, “To begin with the obvious: the soldiers tramping across a rice paddy, machine guns in hand, are actors, not the original combatants. The location in which they appear is almost never that of the historical event. In other words, any dramatic film sequence is an artful construction of reality rather than reality itself. Just as historians re-create their own versions of the past in prose narratives, so also do directors and their production crews on film. ”