Chapter 26 – Step by step
What is war really all about.
This was the first question that Renly asked Tim at boot camp, and it was also the last one.
When the two men first started talking, Renly asked this question, and Tim just laughed, didn’t answer, and moved on to other topics, and Renly could feel that Tim didn’t want to talk about it; before leaving San Diego, Renly asked the same question again, and Tim’s expression was very complicated. It took him about half a cigarette before he answered, “I don’t know.”
I do not know.
That’s the answer Tim gave him, from a veteran who had gone to war twice. During the filming of “The Pacific,” Renly kept thinking about this question, not only because it was the answer Eugene was looking for, but also because it was a question Renly himself was exploring.
For some people, war is glory. Just like Renly and Rami, being wounded is a medal, it means they experienced the baptism of blood and fire, it means they have the last laugh in the arduous confrontation, and it means that they have washed away the lead and completed their growth and transformation.
For some people, war is all about heroes. It’s like the line in “Band of Brothers”: “I’m not a hero, but I’m fighting alongside them. The love between brothers to support each other, cover for each other, struggling to survive in the death line, win the war, let people’s blood boil, and continue to fight”.
For some people, war is about death. It’s like the corpses all over the clearing, enemy troops, friendly troops and innocent people, a fresh life passing away, eventually evolving into a series of numbers, but no one remembers the true meaning behind the numbers, as if life no longer has meaning here, not even to the living.
For some people, war is about profit. Just like the real war hero John Basilone whose teammates stayed on the battlefield and kept on killing, every day and every hour people were dying, while he was singing and dancing on American soil, selling war treasury bonds, enjoying himself, all of which was just a string of money figures in the hands of Wall Street.
But why did Tim say, “I don’t know”? Why?
He saw the soldier lose his mind because he killed too many Japanese and sat frozen in place counting as if all the friendly troops in front of him were enemy troops; he saw the soldier of the same company start screaming late at night because of a nightmare and gradually lose control, and in order to avoid revealing his position, they had to execute the soldier with their own hands, and he fell asleep forever along with the nightmare.
He was almost killed by Japanese bombs, survived but had to fight with the enemy bare-handed, when the daggers stabbed into each other’s abdomen, hot blood stained his hands; he crossed the rain of bullets, using a stretcher to save his wounded partner back, and only halfway, the fragments of the air raid detonation directly ended the life of the wounded.
He personally captured a Japanese soldier, but he was just a teenage boy who raised his hands in fear and surrender, which made him put down the barrel of his gun, but his comrades used the boy as a target to bet on whose shooting was more accurate; he watched the local innocent people being used as human bombs, crying “help” and mixing with the group. Afterwards, the Japanese army detonated the bombs, causing a chain of injuries.
So, what is war really about? Renly used to think he would understand, or at least he was supposed to after actually experiencing what Eugene was dealing with, but months have passed, and he doesn’t understand anything.
After Renly asked that question one last time, Tim told him a short story.
A war photographer went to the streets of Baghdad to look for material, he walked within the living area, where daily life was still going on, as if the war did not bring too much impact, actually breeding a moment of peace. Just then, a three or four-year-old girl quickly crossed the street, running wildly toward the back of the debris, the photographer subconsciously lifted the camera in his hand and pointed it towards the little girl.
A mere action like this, but the little girl stopped in fear and anxiety, raising her hands high in the air, looking timidly at the photographer, that dusty face filled with panic, dark eyes quickly covered with tears, frightened and pleading miserably.
The photographer, stunned and at a loss as to what he had done wrong, rushed forward to comfort the little girl, only to hear her murmur over and over in a trembling voice, “Don’t kill me.” She thought that the photographer was holding a gun.
“I used to believe that I was fighting for justice, fighting for glory, fighting for belief, or at least I wanted to believe that was the case. But after seeing that picture …… I don’t know, I really don’t know.” This was the last sentence of Tim’s exchange with Renly, and then he turned away, that still straight shoulders yet with a touch of heavy sorrow.
Renly was somewhat confused, struggling, but more than that, he was numb and bewildered, he did not even have the energy to pursue it and think, just to continue to persist in this field, it has consumed all his energy. Sometimes, he would even think, if he died like this, once and for all, wouldn’t he be more at ease? Instead, living has become a torture, no end in sight, no meaning, no hope, even his beliefs are beginning to fall apart.
Alive, they just fight to stay alive. Maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong, because maybe “living” itself doesn’t have any meaning.
Rami could sense the subtle changes in Renly’s mood but couldn’t put a finger on it. Ever since he returned from injury, Renly has been getting more and more strange.
It wasn’t that he was affecting the filming, on the contrary, Renly’s shooting was going very well, and his brilliant performances often won him a standing ovation from the crew, not only from David, but also from the other directors who joined the set afterwards; but outside of filming, there were no more jokes, as he sat quietly on the sidelines, the silent and depressing aura of Renly made the sunlight dim, but every time whenever he was questioned, he returned to his normal self and continued to joke around with them about nothing.
Several times, Rami wanted to talk to Renly, but Renly skillfully avoided it, not giving him the opportunity to continue to go further, passing it by glibly. This made Rami increasingly worried.
Rami called out twice in a row, but did not get a response, he had to tap Renly’s shoulder, and then he saw Renly come back to his senses, raising his eyebrows gently upward, indicating that he was listening, Rami pointed to the direction of the director, “They asked, are you ready?”
Renly nodded, gestured in the direction of the director with an “OK” sign, and then showed a slight smile to Rami, “And you? Are you ready? This will not be an easy scene.”
Rami tucked away his worries and pulled the corners of his mouth, “You’re the main character in this scene, if you’re ready, I’ll be fine.”
They are currently shooting a major scene, “The Pacific” shooting is nearing its end, and the burden of all the scenes has been accumulated on Renly.
After a series of battles and events, Eugene’s soul has been changed, not only by his indifference, but also by his iron heart. In a scene filmed five days ago, Eugene first went crazy and tried to kill a Japanese prisoner who had clashed with them and was warned by the army, and then he killed the last enemy soldier who had stubbornly resisted by way of execution, even though the officer has ordered a cease-fire.
Today’s scene, on the other hand, is the pinnacle of all emotional outbursts.
After a long and arduous battle on the island of Okinawa, the U.S. Army finally achieved victory, but there were still some remnants of small forces stubbornly resisting, so they needed to slowly explore and eliminate all the last resisting forces. During the search, Eugene and Merriell heard the cries of a baby coming from a rundown house on the side of the road, and they cautiously went inside, in the house was a surviving baby of a local family, whose family all died tragically.
Here, Eugene, who had gone off the rails and whose heart was as cold as ice, was touched once again. The complete success of “The Pacific” series depends on this scene.
Renly withdrew his eyes, quietly looking at the mountain of bodies in front of him, he knew that these are all actors; he knew that the blood and intestines were all props. But at this moment, they were motionless as they entered into the performance state, it was like they were real corpses in general. This made the mind of Renly also settled down in silence, as he was just quietly standing in place, and in this moment, time seemed to freeze.
Death, he had seen too much death, he was used to it, so much so that when he received a letter from home, which said that Deacon was dead, he was indifferent, just sitting in place, thinking about what “Deacon is dead” really means, but did not find any answer, as if death no longer had any meaning, as if it was just a state of affairs. Even more ironic is that his body and face were covered with blood, even he himself could not count, in the end how many lives he took, and he himself was just a wandering soul crawling out from the pile of corpses.
However, looking at the bawling baby in front of him, he was a bit dazed.
The birth and the death are connected, forming a cycle, that clear, loud cry carrying a hint of anxiety, but no fear, simply impatient, complaining, crying, calling for someone to change his diaper, or for someone to fill his hungry stomach, so pure, so natural, so simple, surrounded by a blanket of death, yet nurtured by hope. The cycle of life is playing out right before his eyes.
“Action!” The director’s voice came from the far side of the sky, as if it was a command from God.