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Naturally it is a lot easier to convey the desired setting of a scene if the medium used involved visual concepts. However, Wilfred Owens poetry manages to give the reader an extremely vivid idea of what the conditions were like for the people whom he describes. Like Oliver Stone, in his movie Platoon, Owen uses some very simple concepts to set the scene in his writing, such as mud, or loud noises, which convey not only the setting, but also the mood that goes with it. For example, in the poem Duce et Decorum Est, in the lines
“Gas! Gas! Quick. Boys! –An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets on just in time”
This excerpt not only give the reader a clear idea of what is physically happening in the trenches, but the language used and in particular, the incoherent shouting in the first line also implies the confusion of the situation, as if the author can recall no more than a blur of it.
Oliver Stone also uses techniques to imply confusion, such as when the platoon are attacked in the jungle scenes; the camera frequently changes perspective (from long-shots to close-ups) as well as focus, and is often jolting suddenly as if it is from the perspective of one of the soldiers running.
The movie Platoon also uses light against darkness to represent good and evil, or even at time to imply the emotion and fear which the characters are feeling. For example, the eerie, blue light, which is noticeable in the jungle scene, gives the scene an air of unfamiliarity, which is also reflected on the emotions of the characters’ faces.
Despite these good points, it is clear that Platoon does not have the realistic scenarios that Wilfred Owen brings forth in his poetry. This is probably because Owen’s work was written while he was actually fighting in the First World War, and his poems often seem as if they are recollections of the actual events. Oliver Stone on the other hand has served very little time, if any at all, and the movie is no more than a chimerical expression of his feelings toward the American attitude of the Vietnam War.
One parallel between the graphic scenes of Platoon and the poetic description shown in Wilfred Owens work can be seen in the constant battle against the natural elements that is shown in both examples.
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2. How do both men make use of symbolism and imagery to convey their ideas about war?
Symbolism is a very powerful tool to use when trying to influence and captivate an audience. It is a technique that is employed in nearly all types of media and is particularly noticeable as well as affective in descriptive works. Due to the fact that Platoon is directed at a more general audience, the symbolism and imagery examples are a lot less subtle than that which is shown in the powerful poetry of Wilfred Owen, which was created to educate people, and not to sell at the box office.
Owens symbolism is often so delicate that the reader may not always consciously recognise it, yet it helps to immensely in creating the atmosphere of the poem. For example in the poem Futility, the sun seems to represent life, and in The Sentry, light is used as an assimilation to hope, which can be seen in the passage “…we heard him shout; ‘I see your lights!’ But ours had long died out.” These lines are an example of the slight nature of Owens imagery, as it can be looked upon as if the light that has died out represents the hope of the group, or as if it is simply the blinded soldier trying to reassure himself that he can still see.
Overall, Owens criticism seems to be a very broad condemnation of war, whereas Oliver Stone simply attacks the Americans attitudes towards the Vietnam War and the fighting that occurred between the different groups of Americans. The examples of imagery in Platoon show this, as they do not really relate to the war itself, but the characters in the movie. For example, Alius seems to display some strong allusions to Jesus Christ, such as his tragic death pose with his hands outstretched similar to the image of Jesus dieing on the cross.
3. Via which medium is character expressed more vividly? Give detailed reasons for your answer.
One main contrast between the movie Platoon and the poems of Wilfred Owen is that Owen does not tend to focus on the individual characters featured in his poems. This is partly because it is hard to receive a detailed understanding of a character in only one or two stanzas of poetry, especially when compared to the length of a feature film. Another major contributor to the lack of description of the characters in Wilfred Owens poetry is that the nature of his criticisms does not require an in-depth description of the soldiers, but it is the settings and the events that occurred in the trenches that are more important.
Oliver Stone's movie Platoon focuses on the characters and their relationship with each other instead of the fighting in the war itself, this gives Stone a need to go into great detail in his description of the characters, which presents a major contrast between the two examples.
This means that despite the fact that Oliver Stone does not have the descriptive talent shown by Wilfred Owen, his characters are described a lot more vividly. Yet still, Stone's descriptions show some obvious flaws; some of the characters in Platoon seem quite transparent, and at times, even stereotypical, for example the differences between Alius and Barnes is a distinct battle between pure good and pure evil.
From the most blatant point, the characters in Platoon are a lot more accessible, as they are shown in a visual based medium, and can be judged by what they look like. This makes it easy for viewers to a get their own impression of the characters (which may not be at all accurate) simply by watching a few minutes of the film.
4. Which medium did you find more accessible in terms of conveying themes and a message about the war?
Although the movie Platoon is set in the Vietnam war, it does not seem to contain any messages directly relating to the moral issues of war, but instead it attacks the split-cultured attitudes which were present at the time. Also, it can be debated that the movie is a very general metaphor for the consistent battle between good and evil. Wilfred Owen on the other hand, very rarely focuses on general philosophy, and instead concentrates purely on condemning those who promote war, and attempting to educate those who ignorantly believe that fighting for ones country is noble.
The themes that Oliver Stone does present are usually quite relevant and accessible, for example the consistent theme of the arguing that goes on between the soldiers when they should be fighting the true enemy. However, these rarely compare to the motivating images and vivid thoughts that are brought forward in Wilfred Owens poetry. A classic example of the messages that Owen presents can be seen in the poem Dulce et Decorum Est, which includes the sarcastic usage of the Latin phrase "Dulce et decorum est; Pro patria mori", which roughly translates to "It is noble and brave to die for ones country".
Owen occasionally delves into philosophical arguments, which although present a broader message, are still debating the same issues. Examples of this method can be seen in the poem Futility:
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
-O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's slap at all?
These lines are questioning whether it was worth the sun creating the earth, if it was going to lead to the destruction of war. This is particularly powerful as it uses a direct approach to the reader, as if questioning for his or her own opinion.
Platoons main message can be seen at the very end of the film, when Chris is reminiscing and considering his experiences in the war. It focuses on the fact that he was constantly fighting with other members of the platoon instead of the Vietnamese. Yet, although the scenes of Platoon hold a powerful message, it seems clear that the work of Wilfred Owen is far more realistic and relevant when compared to the movie.