This scene is interesting for two reasons. First, it is not likely to make people cry on its own. It’s touching, but seeing it divorced from the rest of the film leaves you with more questions than answers. However, when you couple it with everything that came before it, it takes on an entirely different character. Second, in a film filled with death and other horrors, it’s this final peaceful moment that truly moves the audience to tears. It’s not the senseless violence of war and political struggle, not the tragic and inhumane treatment of other human beings, not the outrage at an atrocity and the inability to prevent it; while all of those moments have you feeling many things, it’s this final embrace between two long separated friends that gets you bawling.
In the rest of this post I will consider: the elements of the larger story that make such an emotional reaction to this scene possible, the effect of the story being set during a terrifying era of human history, and the composition of the final scene itself.
- Character and Plot Development: How “The Killing Fields” Develops Bonds of Brotherhood
- The Setting: How War and Atrocity Influence Emotional Scenes
- The Scene: Silence, Tears, and an Appropriate Song