In  A Face of War, did the Vietnamese Civilians or American soldiers have it worse?  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Jones' film makes it clear that both the American soldier and the Vietnamese civilian had it equally rough.  I think that the film refrains from concluding anything.  Its presentation is so documentarian that it simply renders a helpless portrait of unspeakable sadness.  In absorbing what is presented, I think that the Vietnamese civilian is shown to have experienced what could be seen as worse than the American soldier.  The soldiers are trained, for what it's worth, to experience the horrors of what they are subjected.  Yet, the civilians are subject to attacks, burning of their villages, brutality on an unprecedented scale.  

At the same time, the American soldiers represent one specific force, while the civilians are shown to be caught in the middle.  They are brutalized by both the Vietcong as well as the American forces.  The civilians have no refuge, no sanctuary from the infernal conditions that surround them.  It is in this light where I think that the film's depiction shows the civilians experiencing a life that is worse than the American soldier.  Yet, I don't think that the film enables anyone to escape from the carnage that Vietnam represented, including the viewer.