A showing of ‘The Hurt Locker’ in Atwood theatre on Wednesday evening was followed by a discussion of the psychological affects of war on soldiers as a part of the University Program Board’s Film and Discussion series. The film relates to this academic year’s common read, ‘Fire and Forget’, a collection of fictional short stories by military veterans that reflect the fear, confusion and anger of the battlefield during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of the reasons ‘Fire and Forget’ was chosen as the common read was because of the significant population of student veterans at SCSU.
“There are over 600 student veterans on campus, which is a significant portion of the student population, and one of the highest of any college in Minnesotsa,” Christine Metzo, Director of Academic Initiatives and member of the common reading program committee, said. “We wanted to give voice to that group on campus.” Metzo said that another inspiration for the common read was a new law passed in Minnesota last May that designates October as Veteran’s Voices month, in which veterans are encouraged to share their experiences through art and writing in order to help the public understand military life and culture. Minnesota is the first state to designate a month in honor of veterans.
The ‘The Hurt Locker’, winner of best picture in 2010, was written by Mark Boal, a journalist who covered the Iraq War. The film documents the rotation of a group of soldiers whose job is to dismantle bombs planted by insurgents. The film portrays the intense, high level of daily vigilance demanded of many soldiers in wartime. Following the film, the audience discussed how realistic they thought the portrayal of the soldiers’ experiences were and what can be learned from the film about the struggles veterans have in adjusting back to civilian life.
“In my conversations with some of our student veterans on campus, they keep using this term ‘hyper vigilance’,” Metzo said.. “They talk about how you’re trained to always be on all the time and how you can’t just turn that off. When they come home and are in that very mundane place, it’s not stimulating enough, and that’s part of what can be very hard to adjust back to.” Other audience members echoed this by sharing their own interactions with veteran family members or friends.
The group also gave some critique of the film, mainly highlighting the reckless behavior of Sgt. James as being an unrealistic portrayal of how a soldier would act in the field.
“Lots of veterans and advocates for veterans have complained about that portrayal in particular being problematic,” Metzo said. “But then there’s that idea of fiction being able to sometimes tell us things better than a straight-forward recounting of facts.” She shared how the element of fiction is another way in which the film and the common read are related. Despite the widespread critique of ‘The Hurt Locker’ by many veterans, Metzo said that the response of SCSU’s veteran population has been overall positive toward ‘Fire and Forget’ specifically.
“The veterans on campus are the groups that have been most engaged with the common read and related events and their response is positive overall,” Metzo said.
Kenzie Storbakken, who attended the event, said the film wasn’t quite what she expected.
“I didn’t know [the film] would be about the psychological effects on soldiers, and I thought that was really interesting,” Storbakken said. During the post-film discussion, other attendees said they found the film interesting as well because of its focus on the internal struggles of soldiers by using intermittent scenes of quiet intensity rather than the traditional combat scenes with heavy-handed use of visual and sound effects.
This event was the final of the semester in relation to the common read, but there are plans for other events to take place next spring semester.