By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
From MSNBC: “The guns are quiet now,” is the first line in John Huston’s 1946 short film, “Let There Be Light,” which focuses on World War II veterans dealing with what we’d today call post-traumatic stress disorder.
Quiet, perhaps. But the echoes of those guns were still ringing in the minds of many returning soldiers — much as they still are with modern veterans.
Huston, himself a veteran and director of such films as “The Maltese Falcon” and “Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” filmed soldiers being treated at Long Island’s Mason General Hospital for what at the time was called shellshock.
Some soldiers in the film suffered visible tics, shook uncontrollably, stuttered badly, and in worse cases, couldn’t walk or talk due to their wartime experience. Others appeared fine externally, but were battling nightmares, memories of combat, and other issues.
One man breaks down simply while trying to tell a psychiatrist about a photograph of his sweetheart, another says that after seeing so many friends die, he made the assumption he was next.
The hour-long documentary, with brief narration by Huston’s father, Oscar-winner Walter Huston, was a revelation for its time, for its unprecedented film techniques as well as its content. It uses unscripted footage of doctors treating patients – unheard of for such films at the time — and is shot and lit like a major Hollywood movie. It also broke ground by showing both black and white soldiers freely mixing at the hospital, sharing both group therapy sessions and playing sports together.
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