Jarhead, shot by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, puts an existential spin on a Marine’s experiences during the Gulf War.
When Anthony Swofford’s 2003 Gulf War memoir Jarhead first appeared in bookstores, Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, snapped up a copy. “It was a really different and interesting take on the Kuwaiti war, but I really didn’t see it as a film,” the British cinematographer confesses. It’s no wonder: written by an ex-Marine who took part in Operation Desert Storm, the book is a nonlinear narrative that blends chronicle and essay, alternating between depictions of military life, autobiographical flashbacks, and raging asides on America’s role in the Middle East.
Deakins’ thinking changed after he was approached by director Sam Mendes about the movie Jarhead. A veteran of both motion-picture and theatrical stage productions, Mendes had previously contacted Deakins to discuss The Kite Runner, but when that project stalled, Mendes said, “I’m doing this other film you might like.” Deakins was impressed with the screenplay by William Broyles Jr., which straightened out the narrative and brought its military elements to the foreground. “What’s so good about the book and the script is that they don’t present a conventional war story,” the cinematographer offers. “The fact is, nothing happens. It’s really about these kids being taken somewhere they don’t understand, to fight a war they don’t understand — other than the fact that it’s for oil,” says Deakins. “The story is not about the battles; it’s not full of special effects and explosions. It’s one soldier’s very personal story and it presents a very real view of war.” [...]
Published in the November 2005 issue of American Cinematographer.