Hiroshi Teshigahara's Summer Soldiers is a very different film than the filmmakers typical fare, a low-key, albeit immersive drama that takes a relatively objective look at American GIs who have deserted to Japan during the Vietnam War. Make no mistake, Teshigahara's film could definitely be described an anti-war film, but the filmmaker chooses to examine both sides of the American soldier, focusing mostly on a deserter, but also on the motivations of the American GI who aspire to receive war medals and fight for their country. Focusing largely on a deserter who goes from town to town, Summer Soldiers is a film which could almost be described as a road movie, following this man as he bounces around Japan, exhausted but unwilling to go back to fight in the Vietnam war. While the gung-ho, abrasive soldier is certainly an important aspect for the sake of the film's duality, Summer Soldiers truly shines while documenting the life of this deserter. Teshigahara captures the utter isolation that is felt from a man who is in a country he knows little about, unable to speak the language and trying desperately to survive a life void of fighting in the Vietnam War. His loneliness and isolation are one of the more emotional aspects of the film, as Teshigahara paints a portrait of a man who is utterly alone in a place he doesn't understand. One aspect of Summer Soldiers which I found particularly interesting is how the film captures the importance of individuality over country, as this deserter character does find some solace in the fact that there are Japanese individuals who desire to help him. Teshigahara's film, in a subtle way, turns its nose towards the ideal of patriotism, reminding the viewer that human-beings should not define themselves by country or cree, but only by the desire to support and help their fellow man. Feeling much more like a documentary than Teshigahara's typical art-house fare, Summer Soldiers is a strange, albeit compelling anti-war film documenting both sides of the American GI during the Vietnam War.
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