Eastwood's Iwo Jima

Eastwood's Iwo Jima: Critical Engagements with Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima

RIKKE SCHUBART
ANNE GJELSVIK
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/gjel16564
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Eastwood's Iwo Jima
    Book Description:

    With Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Clint Eastwood made a unique contribution to film history, being the first director to make two films about the same event. Eastwood's films examine the battle over Iwo Jima from two nations' perspectives, in two languages, and embody a passionate view on conflict, enemies, and heroes. Together these works tell the story behind one of history's most famous photographs, Leo Rosenthal's "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima." In this volume, international scholars in political science and film, literary, and cultural studies undertake multifaceted investigations into how Eastwood's diptych reflects war today. Fifteen essays explore the intersection among war films, American history, and Japanese patriotism. They present global attitudes toward war memories, icons, and heroism while offering new perspectives on cinema, photography, journalism, ethics, propaganda, war strategy, leadership, and the war on terror.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85043-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself
    (pp. 1-12)
    RIKKE SCHUBART and ANNE GJELSVIK

    Taken together, Eastwood’s diptych Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) form a unique contribution to film history. It was the first time a director made two films at the same time about the same event, which here is the battle over Iwo Jima in 1945 during World War II. And it was also the first time an American director made an American film in Japanese, since Letters from Iwo Jima (despite its English title) is entirely in Japanese. Finally, and what motivated us to produce this anthology, it was the first time a director touched...

  6. PART ONE HISTORY
    • THE MAKING AND REMAKINGS OF AN AMERICAN ICON: ‘Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima’ from Photojournalism to Global, Digital Media
      (pp. 15-35)
      METTE MORTENSEN

      On the poster for Clint Eastwood’s 2006 movie Flags of Our Fathers we see the allegedly most extensively reproduced icon in American popular culture, Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning image from February 1945 of United States Marines raising ‘Old Glory’ atop Mount Suribachi on the Japanese volcano island Iwo Jima. ‘A single shot can end the war,’ the poster’s tagline says. This is a pun. In the context of a war movie, ‘shot’ would normally be associated with a gunshot. Here, however, it also refers to a photographic ‘shot’ or ‘snapshot’, namely the prominent picture taken by Rosenthal. With this wordplay...

    • THE FORGOTTEN CINEMATOGRAPHER OF MOUNT SURIBACHI: Bill Genaust’s Eight-Second Iwo Jima Footage and the Historical Facsimile
      (pp. 36-56)
      BJØRN SØRENSSEN

      When, on 23 February 1945, atop Mount Suribachi, Joe Rosenthal clicked on the shutter of his camera, set at a speed of 1/400th of a second, f-stop between 8 and 16, and thus secured himself and the group of men he was photographing immortal fame, he was not alone in preserving this moment for eternity. By his side stood Sergeant Bill Genaust, who with his 16mm Bell & Howell Filmo Auto Master movie camera secured the eight seconds it took for the group of Marines to raise the second flag on Mount Suribachi on 198 frames of Kodachrome colour film. When...

    • FLAGS OF THEIR STEPFATHERS? Race and Culture in the Context of Military Service and the Fight for Citizenship
      (pp. 57-78)
      MARTIN EDWIN ANDERSEN

      Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from the hardscrabble Gila River reservation in Arizona, was a central character in Flags of Our Fathers. Memorably portrayed by a Canadian-born member of the Ojibwa Indian Nation, Adam Beach, Hayes played a principal part both in the second – posed – raising of ‘Old Glory’ on the equally hardscrabble island of Iwo Jima, and in its aftermath. A second-class citizen in the land of his forefathers, Hayes thus participated as a main protagonist in an epochal event, one that spawned a national icon ‘owned and operated by various interests for particular cultural experiences …...

  7. PART TWO FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
    • FOLLOWING THE FLAG IN AMERICAN FILM
      (pp. 81-99)
      ROBERT EBERWEIN

      On the Library of Congress website is a 40-second film, Raising Old Glory Over Morro Castle,* which celebrates the peace treaty formally ending the Spanish-American War (J. Stuart Blackton, 1899). We see a pole with a Spanish flag in front of a crudely painted backdrop of a castle. This flag is lowered and replaced with an American flag that flaps in the breeze for 20 seconds.¹ Midway through Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006), we see two flag raisings at the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The second results in the iconic photograph that becomes the centrepiece...

    • CARE OR GLORY? Picturing a New War Hero
      (pp. 100-118)
      ANNE GJELSVIK

      The state of war suspends morality; it divests the eternal institutions and obligations of their eternity and rescinds ad interim the unconditional imperatives. In advance its shadow falls over the actions of men. War is not only one of the ordeals – the greatest – of which morality lives; it renders morality derisory. (Levinas 1961: 21)

      The beginning of Clint Eastwood’s World War II movie Flags of Our Fathers (2006) puts the viewer directly into something that looks like a war zone. Only this time the soldier, John ‘Doc’ Bradley (played by Ryan Phillippe), seems to be all alone as...

    • BEYOND MIMESIS: War, Memory, and History in Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers
      (pp. 119-138)
      HOLGER PÖTZSCH

      It is a defining feature of war stories that issues of memory and history strangely intersect. War stories are often the stories of individual soldiers. However, due to the peculiar nature of their content relating to major collective endeavours, suffering and sacrifice, these stories quickly adopt major significance for the self-perception and self-legitimisation of collectives. Initially published as memoires, or historical novels written by men directly involved in the events under consideration, many of the tales are subsequently adapted to screen. As movies ‘based on true stories’, they reach far greater audiences and become important instruments for the social construction...

    • CLINT EASTWOOD’S POSTCLASSICAL MULTIPLE NARRATIVES OF IWO JIMA
      (pp. 139-156)
      GLENN MAN

      Clint Eastwood’s two-pronged cinematic treatment of the battle for Iwo Jima during World War II stirringly illustrates his flexibility and progressiveness as a classical Hollywood filmmaker as he engages certain postclassical and postmodern elements of the multiple narrative film, plying them uncompromisingly in Flags of Our Fathers (2006), while assimilating them into the classical mode in Letters from Iwo Jima (2006). This should come as no surprise to Eastwood fans, since as early as 1992 his western Unforgiven not only challenged genre expectations, but also spectacularly displayed such seemingly postmodern elements as parody, reflexivity, intertextuality, ambiguity, and gender and racial...

    • HAUNTING IN THE WAR FILM: Flags of Our Fathers
      (pp. 157-170)
      ROBERT BURGOYNE

      Shortly after the introductory logo of Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006) appears, a faint voice emerges from the darkness of the screen, a voice that has an old-fashioned texture and grain, singing a song that sounds like a fragment of a half-heard radio broadcast. The lyrics, which are barely audible, come through as ‘Dreams we fashion in the night. Dreams I must gather’, and set a mood of solitude, loss, and regret. The source of the song is ambiguous; it seems to float between the opening Dreamworks logo, crafted in antique black and white, and the beginnings of...

  8. PART THREE LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
    • EASTWOOD AND THE ENEMY
      (pp. 173-193)
      RIKKE SCHUBART

      I must admit I was a little disappointed when I saw Flags of Our Fathers (Clint Eastwood, 2006) about the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. It resembled Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998) too much in its desaturated colour and flashback-structured narration. But then Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood, 2006) swept me from my feet. I sat in awe as the enemy came alive and stretched out his hands towards me to share his stomach ache from diarrhea, his burning thirst due to water rations, his worries about his family, his regret in fighting this war. Letters filled...

    • EAST OF EASTWOOD: Iwo Jima and the Japanese Context
      (pp. 194-217)
      LARS-MARTIN SØRENSEN

      Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) is widely held to have successfully managed to show the battle of Iwo Jima from a Japanese perspective. In doing so, it has joined the ranks of a small number of war films which attempt to include the perspective of the enemy/other in their presentation of the events of a shared traumatic past. But unlike for instance Nagisa Oshima’s prison camp film Senjou no merii kurisumasu (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, 1983), which depicts the clash of Japanese and Western cultures in the microcosm of the prison camp, and was charged by Japanese critics...

    • HUMANISM VERSUS PATRIOTISM? Eastwood Trapped in the Bi-polar Logic of Warfare
      (pp. 218-230)
      MIKKEL BRUUN ZANGENBERG

      In directing Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima (both 2006), Clint Eastwood could be seen as trying to stage a filmic version of the double-helix structure of the DNA code, that is to say, a symmetric reversal and doubling of national perspectives deeply embedded in a cluster of linguistically, culturally, and historically codified narrations.¹ While Letters from Iwo Jima is entirely in Japanese, Flags of Our Fathers is in English, and this simple linguistic duality extends to virtually all aspects of the two films’ mediations of the experience of warfare. Interestingly, though, the symmetry contains slight irregularities,...

    • SUICIDE IN LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
      (pp. 231-244)
      ROBERT BURGOYNE

      The second film in Clint Eastwood’s World War II diptych, Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), immediately sets itself apart from all previous war films by focusing on the question of suicide. For so long a taboo in Western culture and rarely represented in American films, suicide occupies a space in the US imagination that is deeply Other. In US war films, suicide has conventionally served to mark the enemy; the perceived fanaticism of kamikaze pilots in World War II films or the blind frenzy of suicide bombers in films about contemporary Arab and Islamic conflicts defines them as pathological agents...

  9. PART FOUR WAR TODAY
    • TO SELL A WAR: Flags, Lies, and Tragedy
      (pp. 247-262)
      VIBEKE SCHOU TJALVE

      Should you happen to find yourself in America’s capital and take a stroll down the Washington Mall, then a crushing sight will besiege you: the National World War II Memorial. Dedicated in 2003 and explicitly designed to galvanise patriotic fervour, this colossal monument of victory – all eagles, columns, swagger, and bravado – boasts the merits of Western civilization. The size of a football field, flanked by balustrades of bronze, arches of blazing glory, and 70-foot poles flying American flags, the monument tells the simple story of victory and virtue. It is, to be blunt, the architecture of Hollywood heroism:...

    • BANZAI! Letters from Iwo Jima and Choosing the Enemy in Risk Society
      (pp. 263-275)
      MIKKEL VEDBY RASMUSSEN

      The Allied forces called it ‘banzai attacks’ when Japanese soldiers charged their positions with the cry ‘Long live the Emperor’. A frontal assault on the firepower of US Marines was little more than a well-ordered mass suicide; and exactly that element of the Pacific War gained a new meaning in the opening decade of the twenty-first century when the West again faced an enemy more concerned with death than with victory. In Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) director Clint Eastwood tells the story of the Japanese soldiers fighting Americans (the Americans’ story is told in Flags of Our Fathers, 2006),...

  10. FILMOGRAPHY
    (pp. 276-278)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 279-284)