Thursday, February 11, 2016

719. The Killing Fields

The Killing Fields
Directed by Roland Joffe

I believe I had to watch this film for one my Asian history classes (which is what my minor is in).  Obviously, it didn't make that much of an impression on me the first time around, since I could barely recall that I had even seen it.  This time around, I was more intrigued and wholeheartedly agree that this deserves a place on The List.

In 1973, the Cambodian national army is at war with the Khmer Rouge.  Journalist Sydney Schanberg of the New York Times is determined to stay and report on the horrible atrocities that are occurring, despite the fact that the embassies are being evacuated.  His translator Dith Pran wants to stay behind too, even when his family safely escapes the country.  The Khmer Rouge eventually infiltrates the capital Phnom Penh and while, Schanberg is allowed to leave the country, Pran is forced to stay and live in under the totalitarian regime.

This is a really hard film to talk about.  I don't know how many people are aware of the genocide that took place in Cambodia during this time (since most of our Vietnam War movies are about American soldiers), but it is truly one of the most horrifying periods in human history.  Nearly a quarter of Cambodian citizens died during the Khmer Rouge regime.  I think I tried to block this movie out the first time I saw it since it was so horrifying.  But I think it is a necessary film to watch.

If I had one complaint (which seems trivial to even bring up), it would be the casting of Sam Waterston.  He just had no screen presence and I felt like that role could have been incredible in another actor's hands.  Still a fantastic movie, but one that will break your heart.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

In real life Haing S. Ngor's wife lived under the Khmer Rouge regime but died during childbirth.

Haing S. Ngor's was the first Buddhist to win an Academy Award.


  1. I watched this in Cambodia, for added atmosphere, having been to the actual killing fields a couple of days earlier

    Sam Waterson's performance was really weak, risked sinking the whole film

    Did you know that the real-life Pran moved to the US after the events in the film, but was later killed by someone stealing his watch outside his apartment years later?

    1. I am glad I am not the only one that thought that about Waterston. I did hear that about Ngor! Apparently they killed him because he wouldn't give up a locket that had a picture of his late wife?

      I can't even imagine visiting the fields! That must have been heartbreaking. I don't know if I could handle it!

  2. It's pretty bleak. "...and this is the tree where they bashed babies heads in...". Apparently just over the road is an unconnected place where tourists can fire machine guns at chickens for a laugh. I'm vegetarian anyway, but I can't really imagine being in the mood for that on the same day.

    The train line is shut nowadays, but previously the trains had first class and second class plus a third class carriage that went in front of the engine. The idea being that if the train triggered a mine then it would be the front carriage and the passengers who'd paid the least for their tickets who would get blown up.

  3. Oh my god! That's awful. Also a vegetarian so you win points.