Filmmaker Oliver Stone challenged about 1,000 students and other members of the community to recapture their spiritual essence and question truth in a speech Friday night in Page Auditorium.
An Academy-Award winner screenwriter and director, Stone has created such controversial historical films as "Platoon," "Born on the Fourth of July," and "JFK." He also spoke about "Heaven and Earth," his new film about a Vietnamese woman's life in Vietnam and America during the Vietnam War, and the cultural differences between America and Thailand, where parts of the movie were filmed.
"Working on `Heaven and Earth' was the best two years I ever had making a movie," Stone said. "I was struck by the spirituality of life in Thailand."
By comparison, Stone said that Americans refuse to acknowledge the power of their spiritual essence, due in part to the technological society in which they live. As a result, they become stripped of their spiritual meaning and their place in the world.
"There is very little faith in the right side of the brain in the United States," he said.
As a filmmaker, Stone said he tries to create movies that capture innate spirituality and passion.
"Movies should be a coming together of spirit and drama. [They] should be a catharsis and a reaffirmation of the spiritÉ I try to go to the heart we all have, the collective unconscious."
Stone said he also strives to make movies that he thinks are honest and illustrate the truth.
"If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to tell something honestly," he said.
In trying to be truthful, a film sometimes differs from what is historically and politically accepted, he said. However, varying accounts of the truth should not be considered problematic but should be seen as a political challenge to conventional history.
"Drama is a political weapon," Stone said. "Art can be a political propaganda statementÉ and must include controversy. It must peel back the lies."
History books, the media and government all tell the same biased versions of historical events such as the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam war and the Kennedy assassination, Stone said, and sometimes shortchange Americans by refusing to further investigate the truth. For example, on the day of the Kennedy assassination, the press and the government accepted within hours that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, Stone said.
In contrast, he said he tries to present an alternative take on history through his films.
"It is very rare for a movie to break through the oppression of the news," he said.
With films such as "JFK," in which Stone has been criticized for inventing facts and creating fictitious characters, he said he does not try to give completely factual accounts of history. Instead, he tries to present dramatically powerful arguments for different historical interpretations.
"Here was one little three-hour movie that said
fuck the Warren Commission,' and they get scared of it," Stone said. "JFK' had an impact because it was bothering people."
By inducing controversy and debate, Stone said he hopes to keep Americans from "sleepwalking through life.
"I hope to bring together this country by depicting events that divide [it]. We must struggle in our daily lives to keep our consciousness growing," he said.
Despite the lack of spirituality and vitality in American society, Stone said he is still optimistic about the potential of humanity.
"I choose to believe that man is bigger than his adversity," he said. "People are the one recurring hope we have."
Most students said they were impressed by Stone's views on filmmaking.
"He's a man on a mission," said Trinity junior Michael McNamara. "His goal is more than to make cool movies."
However, some students said that Stone didn't handle questions well.
"He seemed to say `this is the way it is,' even though the point of his speech was to challenge different truths," said Trinity sophomore Simon Glick.
"He said at the beginning that he would rather answer questions than give a speech," said Trinity sophomore Dan Frick, "but then he seemed to blow off a couple of the questions students asked him."
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