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The Killing Fields (Roland Joffé, 1984)

An American journalist witnesses the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge hostile regime first hand in Cambodia.
The story is gripping and interesting. It switches point of view from Schanberg's more detached perspective to Dith Pran's spectacular flight from Cambodia into a refugee camp. The film is so densely packed with atmosphere and many details that I couldn't look away for the two and a half hours. The ending is touching and doesn't feel over the top at all. I believed all the horrible events Dith Pran had to live through. (There is a brilliant young John Malkovich, too)
It is also a film about Western ignorance and without being moralistic about it, the film makes a very clear point. We just don't care, after all. Even when we pretend we do.
The cinematography was stunning, so was the editing. I decided to look at the first battle scene around minute 27. The Khmer are attacking and Schanberg has wants to document this for his newspaper. They arrive on site in an old hangar - ironically filled with crates of Coca-Cola bottles. I am quite amazed about how economically this was shot and edited. The master shot is a tracking shot (called H) which in its entirety lasts close to 45 seconds!

SET: Inside the depot






A soldier is cooking something over a fire.
Fixed camera, long lens. (3s)
A


Two soldiers carry a dead dog on a stick into the hut. The jeep with Shanberg passes them.
PAN and track. The set is established clearly. (13s)
B


They get out of the car. The American soldier greets the local army staff.
Tracking shot, we follow the american soldier. Dinh is in the back. (12s)
C


Dinh and Shanberg watch.
Fixed reaction shot, with focus shift onto Shanberg. (4s)
D


Asoldier and local commander exchange.
Fixed, Long lens, silhouette. (4s)
E


Dinh and Shanberg follow the soldiers to the map table
Tracking shot. (8s)
F (very similar to C but the tracking has changed)


Other soldiers bring a dead dog on a stick and lower him to the ground.
Fixed long lens (5s)
G


Al looks at the wounded between the Cola Crates. An explosion
PAN follows Al as he climbs around – until the explosion (11s)
H


The soldiers at the table react.
Camera is lower than before. (2s)
I


An explosion behind the Coke crates. Dust falls from the ceiling, covering the image.
Fixed camera (4s)
J



Al looks at the explosion runs away and takes pictures. Soldiers rush into the dust. An American soldier helps carry out the wounded.
PAN on Al continues until he passes an American soldier – camera follows him back to the site of the explosion
(slight tracking at the end) (20s!)
H (Cut back to)




People rushing past the camera, a covered body in the bg on a stretcher
Long lens (4s)
K (same position as H but fixed and long lens)


More soldiers are carrying out people
PAN follows soldiers as they run out of the hut (7s)
H (Cut back to)

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