“The Vietnam War,” a 10-part, 18-hour documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, premieres on PBS on Sunday, Sept. 17.
There are more Vietnamese voices “The Vietnam War” than Burns at first thought necessary. … It has animated three-dimensional maps and foreign-language interviews. There’s rock music, as well as a score commissioned from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; Erik Ewers, a longtime editor at Florentine, who has worked on dozens of hours of film chivvied along by ragtime and bluegrass, told me, with feeling, that the opportunity to use “Dazed and Confused,” by Led Zeppelin, was “a dream come true.”
The film includes striking sequences in which well-known black-and-white photographs, always central to Burns’s work, coëxist with color film and color photography. The subject, being recent and contested—and its traumas sometimes evident in the stiffness around the mouths of witnesses—has its own narrative potency. … Still, when the narration begins, its liturgical phrasing, and its reach for a negotiated settlement among viewers, will seem familiar.
[The New Yorker’s Ian Parker]
In “Ken burns Tackles a Different Civil War,” N.Y. Times ideas reporter Jennifer Schuessler says the film “offers an uncannily well-timed reflection of our current societal fractures — a kind of origin story for the culture wars.”
- “The $30 million film, more than 10 years in the making, offers an intensely immersive, often head-spinning history lesson, combining grand sweep and archival depth with sometimes devastatingly emotional first-person interviews with people from all sides (including more than two dozen Vietnamese, from both the winning and losing sides).”
- “There are scenes covering 25 battles, 10 of which are examined from multiple perspectives.”
- “Every word of the script, written by the historian Geoffrey C. Ward, was carefully weighed. And perhaps none were as carefully debated as that opening narration, which describes the war as ending in ‘failure’ (not ‘defeat,’ Mr. Burns noted, though he used the word himself). ‘I think we probably spent six months on the word ‘failure.'”
- “As for ‘begun in good faith,’ Mr. Burns said he stands by those words, which he said reflect the intentions of those who fought the war, even if they are perhaps ‘too generous’ to our leaders.”
- Worth the click: “Shot by Shot: Building a Scene in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s Vietnam Epic.”