Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Regret to Inform

1998, Barbara Sonneborn


  1. As Barbara Sonneborn gazed out unto the viridian Vietnamese landscape, I caught just a glimpse of her emotion. In just this one scene, roughly a quarter way into the film, I realized that what Sonneborn was feeling was more than only sadness and anger. There was a common feeling being shared between the viewer and the filmmaker/narrator: curiosity. This curiosity was not only seen through Sonneborn’s story, but in the numerous angry/sad emotions felt in interviews with other widows and victims of the “American War.”
    This miniature glimpse of Sonneborn’s was just an example of how “Regret to Inform” brought the viewer into the film, as the person on the other side of the conversation.
    Sonneborn states an example of her own curiosity in the recollection of her own memories: “We never talked about the fact that he had to kill people, maybe even a child. I realized we never talked honestly about what war means.”
    This particular quote acts as a catalyst, in a way. It stimulates the curiosity in the viewer and represents Sonneborn’s own wonder of what it means to be at war with another culture… without knowing why.
    I felt more of the pain came from the Vietnamese women. I cared for the words of the Americans, but there is something far darker and deeper in the memories of the Vietnamese women.
    I felt that the women were also angry and depressed. Though, their experience was far worse than the Americans’. Both the Americans and Vietnamese had to involve their family in some way in the war, but the Vietnamese lost a way of life.
    An example of a scene portraying the idea of loss is represented in the interview with the old Vietnamese woman who lost her husband and children in the war.
    Another interview displayed an even greater sense of loss. In the interview with Sonneborn’s broken-English speaking friend, the viewer is given the chance to recognize the losses of not only family members and their home, but their memories and morals of survival as well. As a young girl, the interviewee explained that she had to sacrifice others for her survival. She even had to sacrifice a healthy way of life, as she went to prostitution.
    I find this characteristic of the film, the idea of explaining experiences, to be very helpful in understanding the pain and heartache from both ends of the conflict. This form of storytelling is engaging, and it gives the film a more humane rather than a cinema veritae approach.
    I have never personally had an emotion as intense as losing a loved one, for instance, nor have I ever had my home burned to the ground. This film was an amazing insight on the lives of the victims outside of the war, and that it is not only the soldiers who hurt, but their extensions of them as well.

  2. Majadi radwan

    regret to in form

    this was a good film on the other side of the war from a view of how it effected the every day citizens of the other side of the war. I really felt for the woman in this film being from a family of 6 sisters I found it really hard to watch them tell there storys because most of them were arund 16 17 around the time the tragedy of the vietnam war happened. The story of the boy being so thirsty he risked his life for a glass of water was really a sad thing especially looking how easy water is to com by were we live in this country it makes you be thankful for the life we have because it can easly be taken away. I have always lived on a farm and to see the similarites in how they lived compared to mine Is very similar minus the technology that I have been spoiled with in my life time. They were just farmers and it looked like they enjoyed ther lifes befor these aliens came in and fucked it up. It was a great love story also the wife of the fallen solder di a great job in keeping his memory alive. The most sad thing was haering the woman talk about having to be a prostitute and the things she did to survive. She started crying because bad things probaly happened to her that she didnt even talk about. Hearing how some solders just cryed and she didnt know why. I think its because she didnt understand the american culture and most of them were probaly kids it was a substittion for there mother grand mother or a woman they found security in. I really felt for this paticular woman because she was so innocent and she stated about becoming addicted to drugs to do the things she had to do. This goes to show you the innocent are the ones to always suffer when a war like this breaks out. The meek and the weak are the ones that get the blunt of the violence. One woman was sayng when they burnt down her land she didnt under stand. I walked out on my land and tried to imagine forners walking around burnig everything in sight it would be very confusinfusing. Thats the thing about evil when it happens know one can understand. It got me thinking about all the girls I went to highschool with and thought how innocent they were and imagined them going threw what they went threw how different life is around the world. Its the proof that life is not fair. Also the pain he man felt on th inside and not on the out. This pain is worse than all because you cant fix it it lingers inside. He was a hero sacrificng himself for his brothers well being showed he carried a lot of guilt to began with because he couldnt live with himself if he didnt do what he did. So that same good soul probaly burned inside after the things he seen and did. I feel sorry for the viatnamise woman because the naturally down to earth cool girls. They did get the blunt of the shit. Great documentry enjoyed it lots.

    Majadi radwan

  3. …Even love of country is not deeper than the love we have together…

    The first words from Barbara Sonneborn’s Regret to Inform, sung by a Vietnamese war widow, perfectly characterize this 1998 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary. Centered around the filmmaker’s journey to Vietnam twenty years after an enemy mortar killed her husband, Regret to Inform “is a powerful meditation on loss and the devastation of all war on a personal level”. It’s very beautiful film where images of past and present, and gloomy music, are blended with interviews of Vietnamese and American woman looking back at the war and its effects.

    This documentary made me more sympathetic and understanding towards American soldiers. I felt my heart break into small pieces in one scene, when a woman laments, "My husband’s name should be on the wall. He left his soul in Vietnam. It took his body seven years to catch up. He went out in the garage and shot himself. He left a note that said, ‘I love you sweetheart, but I just can't take the flashbacks anymore.’"

    I felt guilty for my harsh judgment towards the American soldiers. When one of the American widows says that “the effects of a war don’t happen right away. It isn’t just the war is here and it’s over. It starts when it ends.” Only then did I realize that I never considered what American soldiers were going through, psychologically and physically. Only then did I understand the pain and confusion that this war brought. Many soldiers were left as broken toys, or simply died without having any say in it.

    This documentary suggests that the war itself is the enemy that brings out the worst in people. Regret to Inform unflinchingly examines the consequences of "The American War" for the Vietnamese and how they had to deal with the fact that the war was on their lands, in their homes. Many of them talk about American soldiers walking through their villages, killing their children. In one heart-wrenching moment, for instance, a Vietnamese woman explains that her entire family was killed before they had a chance to eat breakfast. She weeps for them, even to this day. There are many others like her.

    The story that the Vietnamese widows are telling is of the horror of being in the war. All of them experienced total devastation, their families were slaughtered, their homes were bombed, or they were fighting for survival, as in the case of Nguyen. At only fourteen, she had to learn to make traumatizing choices in order to survive. Survival of the fittest, but it left Nguyen scarred for life.

    The strength of this movie is how these women have managed to patch up their lives after the pain of war, and still have the power to forgive.
    Sonneborn's film not only reminds us of the horror and the scars of the war, but it compels us to ask in the future whether our cause "is just" enough to be worth so terrible a cost.

  4. Regret to inform was one of the more interesting films relating to the Vietnam War simply because it was an interview of several women, American and Vietnam alike on how they had been dealing with the loss of their significant others some 20 years. The elements of confusion, sadness, and regret even loneliness were evident in all of the stories told by the widowed women. Possibly the most compelling part was the similar emotions from one woman to the next from one country to the next if translated correctly all of them were in the dealing with the same stuff despite being on different sides of the war.

    The stranger parts of the film were when the narrator was actually talking about her own loss and how she seemed to speak like she was detached from the story unlike all the other interviews when all the women seemed so blatantly emotional, without even being provoked with difficult questions. It was clear that most of these women were still dealing with the pain of their loss while Sonneborn seemed to be going threw the motions so that she could be involved in the film.

    The film also follows the stories of several soldiers who survived the combat, but were killed by Agent Orange and the terror of flashbacks. Sonneborn recounts the tale of one woman she met at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall who was complaining that her husband should be on that wall because of the flashbacks he was enduring he killed himself once he was back in the states. To be fair though he didn’t die in Vietnam War he died because of Vietnam War, students were killed during protest because of the Vietnam War should they be put on the wall as well?

    The film was told from the vantage point of Sonneborn as she made here way over to Vietnam to see where her husband had been killed in an attempt to get closure or something, still being quite dry about here emotions thus provoking the viewer to speculate her actual intentions. It was interesting to see how the landscape and people were still so heavily affected by the war in Vietnam while in America most people couldn’t tell you more than a handful of fact about the war or how it has affected them personally in contrast to people currently living in Vietnam.

    Even the surprise of the women that were being interviewed from Vietnam made the film worth watching, they were surprised to find out that anyone from America cared how they felt. Also some of the scenery shown in the film was pretty exhilarating. The film kind of put a perspective on the film that most war films don’t. This film put a face on the casualties of war gave the killing of so many soldiers a name and a long list of emotions.