First Kill

International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam 2001
First Kill
© Lemming Film
photos courtesy of IDFA 2001
(First pitched at the IDFA FORUM in 1999, now enjoying its world premiere at the IDFA in Amsterdam, 2001.)

One of the two Dutch entries in competition for the Joris Ivens Prize at the 15th edition of the IDFA, this film explores the reactions of numerous American servicemen who served a tour of duty in Vietnam. As a focal point, they are questioned about their personal experience and memory of the first time they killed someone. This has the result of revealing an often frank and sometimes frightening aspect of mankind. The viewer is able to assess the interviewee while listening to his story and deciding how much is honest gut reaction and how much is played for the camera. Macho behavior, one can surmise, still plays a strong part in some of these characters' lives and they appear to find it important to retain it as part of their personality.

Instead of attempting to achieve an audience response to the atrocities of war, director Coco Schrijber has allowed selected Vietnam vets to comment freely upon their wartime endeavors and reflect upon their personal reactions which results in revealing moments of remorse as well as, in some cases, a macabre nostalgia or even a strong desire to be out there killing once again. The element of the grotesque is harbored within these men's souls which have been unalterably changed through wartime experience. Not everyone ends up killing someone within their lifetime; even fewer manage it with the accordance of a government behind them. The attraction and allure of the potential to destroy is instinctive to humankind, writer/director Schrijber and her co-writer/cameraman Sander Snoep seem to infer, even by their choice of the curious title (which might be easily be considered an ironic displacement if we momentarily, in our thoughts, replace the word "kill " for "love").

IDFA 2001
Michael Herr, former war correspondent and writer of the screenplay "Full Metal Jacket" as well as a bestseller dealing with the allure of war, titled Dispatches, appears as a central figure within the film.

Offering yet another angle on the dark legacy of wartime as well as commenting more broadly upon human nature, "First Kill" admits that some people, quite honestly, enjoy killing. Interesting in how it deals with the direct and side effects of war as well as offering a proposition on the predatory instincts of mankind, it makes viewing well worth consideration, especially by the new generation. Easy viewing (inasmuch as that is possible with such a topic) because of its clarity of style and unobtrusive approach.

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