The return of the master after a long pause always evokes a lot of emotions, even if his name is not Mel Gibson, and the new film is shot on a less complex topic than “Hacksaw Ridge” In the case of the legendary and most controversial director of Hollywood, the return turned out to be, if not triumphant, then worthy. Gibson remained himself: no matter where the action unfolds – in medieval Scotland, ancient Judea or on the fields of World War II, the protagonist of his films will always be an extraordinary person who will certainly win the final. True, this time the hero was almost our contemporary – Corporal Desmond Doss, who passed away 10 years before the premiere.
Desmond Doss in movies and in life
After the release of the film, critics, almost with a magnifying glass in their hands, studied the biography of a real refusenik of conscience and its cinematic embodiment in search of discrepancies and came to the conclusion: all the main facts were reproduced very accurately, but in the details Gibson and the scriptwriters gave free rein to fantasy.
Historic Doss was indeed a Seventh-day Adventist, and in accordance with the principles of his faith, categorically refused to take up arms; Neither his colleagues nor the army bosses really understood him at first; he actually saved 75 people, earning fame and the Medal of Honor. And he really was married to a nurse. Against this background, minor deviations from the truth, such as the fact that Doss married before the war, or that his father was not an alcoholic, fade.
But you should not take “For reasons of conscience” as a biographical film: for Gibson, the corporal-orderly is, first of all, a symbolic figure, giving rise to serious and large-scale reflections.
What is the movie about?
The answer to the question about the meaning and main theme of the film is not as obvious as it might seem. Gibson gives us very simple, superficial options – and, interestingly, they are all true. “Hacksaw Ridge” is a film about war and the strength of the human spirit, and the director says some things in a completely straightforward way. But the critics who reproach him for his straightforwardness and obviousness of his conclusions are deeply wrong, because for “war is terrible” and “conquer yourself and conquer the world” there is a second, deep and very serious semantic layer.
The plot “For reasons of conscience” is based on Gibson’s favorite myth – the myth of the Hero. According to the canon, the Hero first realizes his mission, then is tested, and then he saves the world or individuals. In this case, the final victory can be spiritual, as in The Passion of Christ, or physical, as in the Apocalypse. In the last film by Gibson, the hero wins both a spiritual and a physical victory: his actions return harmony to the terrible world crumbling before our eyes, and meaning to being. Doss is the unalloyed embodiment of the very good, which does not need to be with fists to defeat evil. He wins due to loyalty to ideals and sincere faith – those features that, according to the director, are so lacking in modern society.
What is the main conflict?
Part of the American cultural matrix is the confrontation between the right hero and the wrong society, but this is not about “Hacksaw Ridge” Desmond is not a loner opposing the world (in which case he would have avoided the army by hook or by crook), but the best part of this world, his conscience. He is ready to “give his life for his friends”, his heart is full of love not only for his neighbor, but also for the far: all people are brothers for Doss. And even if one of the brothers has to oppose Doss with a weapon in his hands, this is not a reason to deny him medical assistance. At the same time, the army men surrounding the corporal are by no means a bunch of stupid and bloodthirsty soldiers: each of them is a person with his own convictions. All problems end when Doss’s co-workers begin to understand what Desmond knew from the beginning: you can go to a common goal in different ways. So the main conflict of the film is the hero’s battle with himself. It begins in early childhood and continues even during the Battle of Okinawa.
Why is Desmond so uncompromising?
Even those viewers who sympathize with Doss with all their hearts are unwittingly annoyed when he demonstrates his unwillingness to compromise principles even in the smallest things. One thing is refusal to kill one’s own kind, another is non-observance of the command to pick up a rifle. At some point, Desmond even seems like a stubborn fanatic, but it’s not fanaticism at all. Having devoted so much screen time to Doss’s behavior in the barracks, Gibson touches on a very interesting topic – the topic of betrayal, in this case, betrayal of himself.
Both the director and the hero know that the path to treason begins with a tiny step – it is enough to give in once, and complete surrender becomes only a matter of time. The classic of American psychology R. Cialdini in his cult book “The Psychology of Influence” gives an illustrative example of American prisoners of war who ended up in a Chinese camp during the Korean War. Almost all of them, to one degree or another, cooperated with the enemy, and they managed to break them thanks to the “Start small and build” method. The prisoners of war were first offered to make a negligible concession, and all ended with denunciations of comrades who tried to escape. And therefore Desmond is ready to endure any torment, but just not to take up arms.
What is the meaning of Tom Doss’s image?
The father of the protagonist is a complex and ambiguous character. He drinks, he brandishes a gun, he creates a tense atmosphere in the family. And at the same time, Tom Doss is a victim, a visual embodiment of what the slaughter does to the human soul. It is curious that Doss Sr.’s disillusionment with war and life is as much an individual characteristic as it is a trait of an entire generation: both Remarque and Fitzgerald wrote about the mental devastation of World War I veterans. Looking at his father, who cannot forgive himself that he survived, Desmond begins to understand the inhumanity of war long before he arrived in Okinawa.
What is the meaning of the title of the film?
The original name in the Russian box office was changed, because the phrase “Hacksaw Ridge” – “a ridge in the form of a hacksaw” – does not say anything to the domestic audience. This is what the Americans called the Maeda escarpment, where Desmond rescued the soldiers.
Only three ideological refuseniks in the entire history of the country received the highest US military award, but only Desmond Doss managed to receive it during his lifetime. However, after the war, he was left crippled and could not work, so his wife had to go to the nurse to support the family.
The leading actor E. Garfield burst into tears after reading the script: he was so moved by the story of the first ideological refusenik. By the way, a lot of people had a hand in the script: after all, the first version of it was written by the producer of the film, G. Crosby, back in 2001. And the filming of films was first discussed in 2006, but then Gibson refused. Later, he again refused and agreed, as in a fairy tale, only for the third time. If Gibson had known in advance that the film would win two Oscars and be included in the list of the 250 best films in cinema history, he might have agreed right away.
Although critics have compared Out of Conscience to Saving Private Ryan (battle scenes) and Full Metal Jacket (scenes in the barracks), Gibson says he was inspired by entirely different films – The Sands of Iwo Jima and Target – Burma. created in the 1940s.