Let There Be Light (1946)

JOHN HUSTON

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB.  USA, 1946.  .  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by , , , John Huston, , .   Music by .  Film Editing by .

The war was over before John Huston was able to get this project up and running, a look at the psychological effect of battle on soldiers who served America in World War II.  Completed to great acclaim, the war department found the finished product inconvenient, fearing that it would bring criticism upon a country that had earned the world’s admiration by winning the war, and would also impede veterans’ ability to get work if the general public saw them all as mentally damaged.  The footage itself is wonderful, an up-close look at military psychiatry of the time whose scenes are not re-enactments (as was common in documentary filmmaking at the time, including Huston’s own films during the war) but, according to Mark Harris’ excellent book Five Came Back, actually are real sessions with patients.  Some sequences are one-on-one, a very moving example being the soldier who is overcome with emotion when he thinks of his girlfriend, while others are groups in therapy who share their opinions with their peers.  There are some very stunning examples of battlefield trauma, one man is psychosomatically unable to walk, another stutters and one decorated soldier has complete amnesia about both his experience in battle and his life before it.  Disturbing, upsetting and often very touching, the film had no public screenings for thirty years after it was first seen by military personnel, but its existence is still of great benefit to us today.

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