Monday, December 03, 2007

The Killing Fields

 I had the opportunity to watch The Killing Fields when it first came out in 1984 at MIT, with a Q&A session with Sydney Schanberg, but at the time was not up for a movie about genocide. I finally watched it on the plane last month. Unfortunately, I only had my new V-Moda Vibe Duo headphones and although they are "noise-isolating" they are not "noise-reducing" so I couldn't hear most of the dialog even with the laptop set at full volume (stupid Lenovo). I watched most of it without much dialog and could get the gist of the movie, but then I watched it again off the plane. Even without the dialog, it was extremely moving and the range of emotions was apparent, from fear to shock to hatred. Watching with the dialog definitely added another layer to the movie as there were many voiceovers that I had been unaware of. The interesting thing in the special features was a bio on the actor Dr. Haing S. Ngor. The DVD said:

Born in Samrong Young, Cambodia, Ngor was a doctor (OB/GYN) engaged to Chang My Huoy before the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia in 1975. Ngor and Huoy were imprisoned and tortured by Pol Pot forces. Huoy died after experiencing a forced premature labor. After his third imprisonment and release from prison, Ngor put Huoy's picture in a golden locket, which he always swore to wear...

Ngor was murdered February 26, 1996 in the open parking garage of his home next to his car in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles... The attack was not politically motivated. They wanted the locket he swore never to part with.

Such a tragic life for the award winning actor. He lived through the atrocities, so acting the part of Dith Pran was completely convincing. I found more on him on Wikipedia and found more information on his life:
As an ethnic Chinese he faced persecution and he was compelled to conceal his education and medical skills (and indeed the fact that he wore eyeglasses) to avoid the new regime's intense hostility to intellectuals and professionals. He was expelled from Phnom Penh, along with the bulk of its two million inhabitants, as part of the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" socialist experiment and imprisoned in a concentration camp along with his wife, My-Huoy, who subsequently died during childbirth in the camp. Although a gynecologist, he was unable to treat his wife who required a Cesarean section as he would have been exposed and both he and his wife would very probably have been killed.
This reminded me of a Radio Lab episode on Morality, where they discuss the M*A*S*H episode where a mother smothers and kills her baby who was coughing in order to hide their group's location from enemy forces. To me, that is completely unfathomable, because I would feel that even if the baby gave away their position, there is a chance, albeit a slight one, that it would not necessarily mean certain death. Then again, the brutality of the situation under the Khmer Rouge left not much hope as they were looking for any excuse to execute people.


Melissa said...

I see we both waxed serious today...

That was an intense movie. I remember hearing when he was killed and I just wanted to scream! The senselessness of it all just cut very deep.

Like I said, an intense movie. I put it up there with Schindler's List of absolutely fantastic movies that I will never be able to bring myself to watch again

Julie Pippert said...

Very intense. The Dec 3 Time touches on "what makes us good or evil" and asks ethical dilemma questions. One is about throwing a dying person off a life raft to save th rest, and another is about smothering a baby to save a group. It's an intriguing exploration of the dichotomy inherent in the most noble and most savage creature: man.

Using My Words

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that you revisited this movie.

Just to update you, Dr. Haing S. Ngor was also at MIT along with Sidney Schanberg speaking after the movie.