Clint Eastwood's Cinema of Trauma: Essays on PTSD in the Director's Films may not at first be the type of book that leaps out at the casual fan. However, for those who perhaps seek to examine Eastwood’s characters more deeply and perhaps from a different perspective, this collection of extremely well written essays delivers both a fascinating and revealing insight. The 10 essays in this volume examine posttraumatic stress disorder in films such as: The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, Unforgiven, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Changeling, In the Line of Fire, Absolute Power, Blood Work, Vanessa in the Garden, Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, Invictus, American Sniper, and Sully.
It is perhaps important to first overcome any pre-conceived expectations or apprehensions that this book (edited by Charles R. Hamilton and Allen H. Redmon) is simply going to be ‘too deep’ or ‘heavy’ in its context. Naturally, PTSD is a serious matter, and its symptoms such as stress, fear, isolation, nightmares and guilt are far from simple to ignore or in deed overcome. But, it is in the use of Eastwood’s characters, people that we have come to know or at least recognise and placing them alongside the subject matter which works so well. We, as the reader can firstly identify the character and therefore apply and associate the subject matter more clearly and directly. PTSD may be a complex issue, but the text is presented in such a way that is simple enough to comprehend. I also found the book to be rather liberal in it breadth, often by identifying wider flaws in certain characters. For instance, Andrew Grossman’s essay ‘Feminism and Pacifist Spectacle in The Gauntlet’ is an extremely enjoyable read. It strips back the characters, revealing issues of masculinity, feminism, and the ‘unshackling of Eastwood’s dim-witted cop’ by an ‘enlightened woman’ which all makes for fascinating reading, and is more of a character study. However, it’s an element which only adds to the book’s overall strength.
The deeper aspects of PTSD are of course examined throughout its pages, but always presented in an easy-to-read and far from complex fashion. Allen H. Redmon’s ‘Projecting Recovery in American Sniper and Sully’ provides a thought-provoking insight, with each film’s focus on trauma, and their associated ‘complexities and moral dilemmas’. It compares and contrasts both films and the psychological impact of making critical decisions during traumatic events - the choices taken, the consequences of those choices and how to live with them.
The book is a wonderful read, with seemingly something new to be learnt from each of its 192 pages. The book was published in October 2017 and I would strongly recommend it, especially if you enjoy examining what exists beyond the narrative of Eastwood’s characters. It certainly offers a refreshing perspective and a welcome departure from the much repeated and formulated style of books on Eastwood.
My sincere thanks to Allen H. Redmon for sending me this book – it deserves every success.
Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc, Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
Below: links for U.K. and U.S.
For UK press here
For US press here