Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Johnny Got His Gun

Have you heard of that film? Probably not. I came across Johnny Got His Gun when I was about 13 and it scared the hell out of me. It came out in 1971, an adaptation of Dalton Trumbo's novel of the same name. Trumbo also wrote and directed the film.
"I'm just like a piece of meat that keeps on living."
Joe, a young American soldier, is hit by a mortar shell on the last day of World War I. He lies in a hospital bed in a fate worse than death - a quadruple amputee who has lost his arms, legs, eyes, ears, mouth and nose. He remains conscious and able to think, thereby reliving his life through strange dreams and memories, unable to distinguish whether he is awake or dreaming.
The film haunted me for ages. Joe's story is told through flashbacks from his living hell of a hospital bed. At the time, I didn't quite understand everything that was going on. Joe is visited (during his flashbacks/dreams) by Jesus. I got that it was Jesus, but a lot of the film's religious imagery went over my head. I watched it a again about a year ago and got a better grip on the meaning.

The scene below is particularly disturbing - Jesus telling Joe that there is hope. But as the scene progresses, God is forced to admit that there are some people even he can't help. For a religious person, that must be rather terrifying.

It's not the best film in the world. It's not amazing or fantastic. There's quite a bit of over-writing and the acting is sometimes painful. But the idea, the simple premise, is undeniably effective. I haven't told anyone about the film and not seen a disturbed face looking back at me.

So I've only seen the film twice and that's more than enough for me, thanks. Obviously it stuck a chord with James Hetfield, because Metallica bought the rights for the movie and released One back in 1988.

What say you? Anyone else out there seen this movie and were you as disturbed as I was? Any other films had that effect on you?


Manda said...

When I was 8 or 9, The Mummy scared the shit out of me. That part where the scarab beetles get under that guy's skin? Terrifying.

On a completely different note, you've won a blogging award! Yay! It's waiting for you on my blog. (Suspense...)

Neil said...

Ooooh thank you, Manda. That will be my New Year's post. Now to think of something to live up to your facts......

And those scarab beetles were a nice touch in the film.