The Mark of War
The Mark of War (TRT – 69 minutes)
The Mark of War is an intimate portrait of seven men who served in the Vietnam War drawn by a psychoanalyst-filmmaker keen on entering their worlds. In this film I explore their lives before going off to war, their experiences fighting in Vietnam, and their lives since their return.
The film is 57:52 minutes duration and organized into three acts. The First Act covers the characters’ childhoods until entering in the military. All but one of the veterans grew up in small towns or cities in Texas. The lone exception is a veteran who was raised in rural Louisiana. The Second Act begins with each man’s arrival in Vietnam, where all served in combat operations. We move through their year-long deployments via stories that follow an organic progression from initial impressions, to first encounters with combat as they head out on patrols, to the hardships endured and the terrors of coming face to face with the realities of war. In the Third Act the soldiers return home. They trace their experiences of being plucked from the jungles of Vietnam and arriving in the United States where some found anti-war protests and families and communities that often did not know how to receive them. They describe their struggles to digest what they had seen, what they had lived, and what they had done in Vietnam. Some carry the wounds of war in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnoses. The film concludes with one veteran’s account of visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., containing the names of the men and women who died in Vietnam, and his reflection on the question: What did they die for?
Stylistically, the film is driven entirely by the veterans’ stories with the exception of three brief voiceovers that mark the beginning of each act. Childhood and family photographs help illustrate our characters’ lives as children and adolescents prior to setting off for war. The second and third acts draw generously from rare National Archives Vietnam War footage.
A distinctive feature of the film is its close, intimate tone. As a psychologist/psychoanalyst, my interviewing style is open and reflective. This makes The Mark of War more psychological and personal rather than historical in its treatment of the experiences of these men, some of whom I have interviewed on and off for over ten years.