Let There Be Light



Let There Be Light (1946) — known to the U.S. Army as PMF 5019 — is a documentary film directed by American filmmaker John Huston (1906–1987). It was the last in a series of four films directed by Huston while serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. Its portrayal of soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder led to Let There Be Light being suppressed by the U.S. government; it was not released until the 1980s.

Seventy-five U.S. service members — recent combat veterans suffering from various “nervous conditions” including psychoneurosis, battle neurosis, conversion disorder, amnesia, severe stammering, and anxiety states — are followed in the course of their medical management. A series of scenes chronicles their entry into the military psychiatric hospital, treatment, and eventual recovery and discharge, all typically in a period of 6 to 8 weeks. Treatments depicted include narcosynthesis, hypnosis, group psychotherapy, music therapy, and work therapy. The highlighted cases are presented as marked therapeutic successes, accompanied by upbeat musical cues, although the narrator cautions after one dramatic recovery that “the neurosis is not cured”. The patients, who explain themselves to the doctors on camera at some length, are treated soberly and with dignity, while the therapies are presented in an optimistic and flattering manner. The film ends with a number of the featured patients participating in a ceremony in which they are discharged, not just from the hospital, but from military service, and returned to civilian life.

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