Is Nico Damianos Inspired by Real Movie Director? Is The Hamlet an Actual Film?

Image Credit: Hopper Stone/HBO

In HBO’s ‘The Sympathizer,’ a different face of the Vietnam War is presented to the audience. The events unfold from the perspective of a Viet Cong spy who was planted in the South Vietnamese army with the intent of toppling them. However, even after the war is over, the spy is not allowed to be at peace. He is sent to America to continue monitoring the activities of the General, one of the top leaders of South Vietnam. Once in the foreign land, the spy has to adapt to his new surroundings, and an unexpected turn of events puts him in touch with a film director who is making a movie about the war. Interestingly, the movie and the director have a real-life connection.

The Hamlet and Its Director Are Inspired by Real Movies About the Vietnam War

Image Credits: Hopper Stone/HBO

‘The Sympathizer’ is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Viet Thanh Nguyen, who created the character called the Auteur (called Nico Damianos in the HBO series) and is working on a film called ‘The Hamlet’. The protagonist, the Captain, is brought on board as a consultant, but he soon realizes that the filmmakers only need his opinion on things like costume design and other trivial details, but they are not really concerned about how the Vietnamese are presented in the movie. In fact, it becomes clear that the movie is more concerned with presenting the war from an American perspective, with the Vietnamese only left in the background with majorly no speaking roles.

When Viet Thanh Nguyen first watched Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ at the age of ten, he had a similar realization about the representation of the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese people. He had loved watching action films and movies about war and had loved the film for the most part, until the scene where the massacre of the Vietnamese people takes place. The scene created a lasting impact on the young Nguyen’s psyche and inspired him to become a writer so he could rectify the narrative problem in America, especially with respect to the point of view of Vietnamese people.

While researching for his book, the author wanted the scenes regarding the director and the making of the film to be as realistic as possible. Because ‘Apocalypse Now’ (which he has called “a great movie” but also a “problematic” movie) had had such an impact on him, he read up more about the behind-the-scenes of the film, having already known about the difficulties that the film’s production has been through. The details that came out were a treasure trove that the author mined to write the chapters featuring the filming of the fictional film he named ‘The Hamlet.’

Image Credits: Hopper Stone/HBO

Nguyen called this his revenge on ‘Apocalypse Now,’ and also on every other Vietnam War movie that has presented the story of the Vietnamese people from an extremely fractured lens without considering the real experiences of the Vietnamese people who had the most to lose in the war. While ‘Apocalypse Now’ ended up being nominated for Academy Awards and even won two, the author had no intention for ‘The Hamlet’ to be something that good. Noting that a lot of movies about the Vietnam War were “not that great,” he wanted the fictional film in his novel to fall under the same category.

The film also serves the purpose of showing the protagonist how skewed the perspective is regarding the war, and it’s all because of the movies that Hollywood generates, unofficially becoming the propaganda machine of America’s involvement in the war and completely rejecting the experiences of the people who had actually been through it all. The HBO series translates all of Nguyen’s anger about such films, which he poured into the book, onto the screen, giving the audience a perspective on how much power the medium of movies holds in constructing a narrative.

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