Let There Be Light (1946)

“In faraway places, men dreamed of this moment. But for some men the moment is very different from the dream.”

Synopsis:
Shell-shocked soldiers returning from World War II undergo treatment for a variety of psychological and physical difficulties.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Originally commissioned by the Pentagon to persuade the American public that WWII veterans were ready to “reenter society”, John Huston’s Let There Be Light was banned for years, presumably because “anyone who saw it would know better than to enlist.” While Peary finds the soldiers’ treatments “ridiculously facile and hokey” and interprets the shell-shocked soldiers’ crying as “phony”, I disagree. It’s true that the treatments themselves are of dubious long-term value, and Huston unfortunately makes no attempt to show anything other than success stories. But these soldiers seem to be in genuine distress, and it’s heartening to see them in the process of recovery, however temporary.

Note: This little-seen film has been of special interest again lately, given the release of a new documentary about returning veterans adjusting to civilian life — Patricia Foulkrod’s The Ground Truth (2006).

Redeeming Qualities:

  • A powerful portrayal of shellshocked soldiers attempting to deal with the trauma of their wartime experiences

Must See?
Yes. This earnest documentary shows a view of WWII not often told.

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One Response to “Let There Be Light (1946)”

  1. Must-see, plain and simple.

    This doc is only an hour long. In that time, it covers a lot of ground, too much for an hour-long doc.

    It is nevertheless very real, and heartbreaking.

    There will always be wars. But all that they ‘accomplish’ is in direct opposition to the human spirit. They pit the mind against the body and the soul. Man is not meant to kill man. In the pursuit of doing so, he kills himself. That’s what this film shows.

    As modern viewers watching a film from the 40s, we are perhaps less interested in the specifics of all of the medical techniques of the time. The avenues taken in understanding the center of the mind have evolved. But the heart of Huston’s film rings true.

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