Response to Joel Schumacher’s – Tigerland
Question: What filmic techniques does Joel Schumacher use to present Bozz’s story in a realistic and unsentimental way?
Joel Schumacher’s war/drama Tigerland (2000) gives its audience an insight as to how American soldiers were trained and treated during the time of the Vietnam War. ‘Tigerland’ is the soldiers’ last stop before being shipped out to Vietnam; it is a brutal training camp referred to by a commanding officer as the second worst place on earth. However, Tigerland is merely the pinnacle of the terrible mistreatment these American soldiers had faced. Draftee Roland Bozz is an antagonistic non-conformist; his defiance of the war and the American army draws fire from his commanding officers and his own peers, but when his platoon lands in Tigerland his leadership and loyalty bring the men together.
Throughout the film Schumacher uses the hand-held camera to create a convincingly realistic feel to the events. This technique also creates an atmosphere and mood for the film and makes viewers feel as if they are part of the action. Whenever the platoons of soldiers are aboard the military trucks, the camera is held low and never berates as if the viewer is there, jolted and thrown around on the truck with them. Moreover, the hand-held camera for much of the film follows Bozz as apposed to focusing on him. This enables the viewer to see events from Bozz’s perspective, rather than the traditional common close up shot. Schumacher has elected to use this technique to gain a documentary style film rather than another Hollywood production; as a result an amateurish home-style video is produced, almost as if it is illicitly filmed. During a late night leave outing Bozz and Paxton find themselves inebriated and on top of a shipping container situated on the back of a train. Bozz suggests they should jump, to fall and break their legs in order to be discharged from the army. The hand-held camera also jumps quickly from Bozz to Paxton, as if nervously one face to another, until they decide they are unable to go through with it. This helps the viewer to relate to Bozz’s situation and creates a crude, semi-documentary feel to the film.
Schumacher also relies upon the soundtrack to reinforce this amateurish, documentary feel to the film. This is illustrated in many of the sombre and threatening scenes where the music builds up as the tension rises. Yet no ordinary orchestrated music is used, instead Asian tribal music drums, wooden flutes and hand held percussion instruments are used. The sounds produced are deep and intensifying, which increases tension in the film. This music is also used as a way of adding to the unsentimental feeling of the film, as it conjures up the atmosphere and feel of the tropical Asian jungle where they will eventually fight. Dialogue is also used throughout the film to enhance the realistic feeling of the training program. To their surprise Bozz and Paxton are confronted once again by Pt. Wilson a man whom they thought had been discharged from the military for misconduct. Paxton is quick to ask Bozz, “What the hell is he still doing here?” to which Bozz replies, “There’s a war going on. They still have room for fucking psychopaths”. Such dialogue is used by Schumacher to…