More About The Mark of War

The Mark of War (TRT: 69 minutes)is a feature-length documentary film that delves into the experiences of seven Vietnam Veterans from childhood through boot camp, combat, the culture wars at home, and, ultimately, living with enduring mark of war. Unencumbered by narration or other storytelling devices, the film forges an unusually personal connection between the Veterans sharing their stories and the audience that witnesses them.

Director Ricardo Ainslie’s approach is informed by his practice as a psychoanalyst, which gives his interviews, many stretching over the course of ten years, an unusually intimate character. This intimacy is reflected in the Veterans’ accounts of their childhoods and their lives since returning from war, but most of all in their stories about the war itself: nights in the jungle where the most profound darkness and the cacophony of frogs and insects instill terror, where the crucible of war forged the deepest bonds with comrades in arms (bonds often unexpectedly severed from one moment to the next either by the vagaries of rotation or by violence and death), or the anxious, self-preservative mental calculations of a soldier coming into a landing zone about what height he could jump from the helicopter in order to reduce his chances of being shot. For many of the Veterans, this film was the first time they had ever shared their stories with others, even with close family members.

An especially distinctive feature of this film is the extensive use of carefully constructed archival footage, shot first hand by US combat cameramen, to illustrate these Veterans’ accounts of war.  Image and music work together subtly to flesh out the emotional core of these men’s stories as they encounter the brutal truths of combat. The result is a remarkable vision of what it means to serve, to fight, and to return home after war – insights that readily speak to all wars and perhaps even to other traumatizing experiences as well.

Ultimately, the power of The Mark of War lies in how the film deconstructs many viewers’ preconceptions about the men who fought in Vietnam, achieving this through an intimate engagement with its characters and through its profound humanness that connects the audience to the film’s characters.