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What is the psychology of war? Do soldiers become murderers when they enjoy killing? Is war beautiful? Are all humans capable of monstrous acts? FIRST KILL examines these and other questions, as it explores what war does to the human mind and soul.
Interviews with several Vietnam veterans evoke the contradictory feelings that killing produces – fear, hate, seduction and pleasure. FIRST KILL also includes a discussion with Michael Herr, the former war correspondent who wrote the screenplays to Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, and wrote Dispatches, the best and most important book about the experiences of the combat soldier in the Vietnam War.
For the last ten years Herr has refused to give any interviews, but in FIRST KILL he descends into his own dark experiences one more time. “If war was hell and only hell and there were no other colors in the palate… I don’t think people would continue to make war,” he says.
For other people war is just work. Immediately after taking his well-known photograph of a Vietnamese general shooting a Vietcong soldier in the head, Eddie Adams went out to lunch. Other Vietnam veterans talk about similar numbing experiences, many of them continuing to suffer nightmares and are still struggling with their traumas. On the other hand, former “tunnelrat” Billy Heflin openly admits that, despite his aversion to war, he is addicted to killing, and longingly recalls his wartime experiences.