John Huston utilized a revolutionary style of unscripted interviews with racially mixed subjects to explore the psychological ramifications of war. The modern viewer will find the methods out of date but these treatments were actually at the forefront of psychological care in the 1940s. John Huston’s truthful portrayal of “battle neurosis” was roundly rejected and as a result, remained suppressed for thirty-five years.
- Cannes Film Festival (1981)
- International Film Festival Rotterdam (1988)
- Berlin International Film Festival (1990)
John Huston joined the Army Signal Corp as a captain in 1942, and his enlistment was a decision of both professional and personal daring. He’d just come into his own with his success directing The Maltese Falcon and took a gamble at stepping away from the accomplishment so early in his burgeoning career. While enlisted, he directed and produced three films that some critics rank as being among the best of WWII: Report from the Aleutians, The Battle of San Pietro, and Let There Be Light. He rose to the rank of major and received the Legion of Merit award for "courageous work under battle conditions."
Let There Be Light was shot over the course of three months, it was designed to convince the general public, doctors, and especially employers that soldiers suffering from shell shock and other psychiatric damage could be cared for, rehabilitated, and resume life in what would come to pass as “normal.” The film was restricted and designated for “medical use only” for 35 years due to concerns over the patient’s privacy and due to the controversial nature of the treatments used at the time. Huston lobbied to have it released for decades. Let There Be Light was only available in a sanitized version until a complete version was screened at Cannes in 1981 after a public campaign by Huston, the American film community, and the White House put pressure on the Department of Defense to release it.