The Killing Fields (1984)


The Killing Fields is based on the true story of Dith Pran, a Cambodian journalist caught up in the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge who seized power in the mid seventies.

I saw this film many years ago and it had a profound effect on me at the time, not having previously known of the events it documents. To be honest, it is not quite the masterpiece I remembered it to be; the first hour is a pretty generic, if decent foreign-journalists-caught-up-in-civil-conflict story and it is showing its age a little. The soundtrack in particular at times sounded like it’d be more at home in a John Carpenter film than an epic human tragedy. Also the scale of what happened is almost impossible to process and the rather dry, factual way it is presented means that the emotional connection of something like Schindler’s List is not quite there. Where the film comes to life however is in the final hour, when you see what happens to Pran and his countrymen after the west inevitably did its usual disappearing act once Cambodia had served its purpose and the barbarians were at the gates. Pran’s tortuous journey goes some small way to describe the horrors of a regime that rounded up anybody with an education and left them to rot in open mass graves which littered the country and these images are extremely powerful.

In all a worthy and intelligent attempt to show the plight of yet another population used and then tossed to the wolves by an insidious foreign government.



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