Let There Be Light

Following a constructive group conversation Friday about John Huston, I watched one of the director's military documentaries, a portrait of wounded veterans re-adjusting to civilian life as harrowing and heartbreaking as THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. The film feels unique among the Huston works I've seen in that it's by far the most sympathetic. Huston employs relatively basic cinematic grammar so that nothing distracts from the veterans' emotional pain; however modest and plainspoken, it is a boldly confrontational film. Yet the confrontation is born out of Huston's deep respect for his subjects—the director follows the military doctors' approach and tries to meet the men on their level.

In keeping with its title, LET THERE BE LIGHT contains a lot of bright images that bring an optimistic mood to the depiction of psychiatry. Huston presents men who manage to overcome their trauma in the military hospital, thanks to the interventions of caring doctors working at the forefront of their field. Yet these scenes don't diminish our sense of the horrors the patients experienced in combat or the hard work they've performed to reach their psychological breakthroughs.