Australian Screen

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Broken Sun (2008)

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clip German mortar attack education content clip 1, 3

Original classification rating: MA. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

In this flashback to the First World War, Jack (Jai Koutrae) cowers in his trench as a shell explodes, showering him with debris and dust and temporarily deafening him.

Curator’s notes

This brief yet highly effective scene vividly depicts one of the war events responsible for Jack’s present day psychological condition. Crucial to its power is the sound design, which favours a subjective reality. The noise of the explosion is overwhelming and Jack is temporarily deafened. The latter is conveyed via a high-pitched whistle that starts to become noticeable by the fact that Jack’s shouting is barely audible – to us and obviously to him. This audio technique was famously used at greater length in Elem Klimov’s celebrated Russian Second World War film, Come and See (1985).

Visually the scene is equally subjective, giving a sense of what the protagonist is going through and eschewing a spectacle-based approach. This is achieved via the use of close-up, the shaking of the camera, and the rolling clouds of dust that fall around Jack’s head.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows Jack (Jai Koutrae) as he experiences the overwhelming noise and horror of trench warfare on the Western Front during the First World War. Jack and his fellow soldiers are seen sheltering in a trench when the first shell of an artillery barrage explodes nearby. As more shells explode and dirt pours on the men, a soldier dodges along the trench. The noise of the shells obliterates the sound of Jack shouting. As this noise fades, it is replaced by the sound of a drawn-out single musical note.

Educational value points

  • The clip captures Jack’s enraged helplessness as a soldier under bombardment, through a combination of skilful direction, cinematography and sound design. The sounds of falling earth and distant thuds conjure up the overwhelming noise of the bombardment that deafens Jack, and the viewer, to his shouts. Jack is filmed pinned down but constantly shouting and moving and the shaky hand-held camera filming Jack at close range conveys the danger and his fear of entrapment.
  • The distinctive colour palette, editing and soundscape in this scene suggest a dreamlike or internalised quality to Jack’s experience. The murky green filtered light washing through the dusty atmosphere as well as the eerie soundscape conveys a sense of possible psychological trauma, the feeling that Jack, while immersed in the horror of the attack, is distanced from the action. The final moments, as the sound dies and the screen fades to black, enhance this effect.
  • The shots of Jack shouting to his fellow soldiers but not being heard suggest the futility felt by the soldiers engaged in trench warfare. The scene evokes a sense of how soldiers in such a situation may have felt overwhelmed and unable to act effectively in the face of such intense bombardments. The scene allows a glimpse into the immense psychological pressure experienced by the soldiers in such situations and the consequent trauma suffered by many.
  • The First World War (1914-18) was an artillery war and for those soldiers caught up in a bombardment or barrage, as depicted here, the effects were devastating. Artillery caused the greatest loss of life, the most horrible wounds and the most shattering psychological damage of the War. Even soldiers some distance from where shells were landing and not suffering immediate casualties were overcome by the barrage’s sensory assault, particularly by its noise.
  • This flashback scene in Broken Sun is used to explain the cause of the psychological trauma, which Jack continues to suffer nearly thirty years later. Commonly known as 'shellshock’, the term described a condition initially thought to be caused by physical injury to the nerves, the result of being buried alive in a bombardment, for example. It was later understood as a post-trauma psychological condition, often triggered by prolonged exposure to shelling.

We see soldiers in a trench as a shell explodes. Debris showers Jack and the other soldiers. He is deafened by the explosions, unable to hear himself shouting; instead, we hear a high-pitched whine. Jack holds his helmet and continues yelling as debris rains down. We cannot hear him for the sound of the explosions.

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  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
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