Let There Be Light (film)

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Let There Be Light
Screenshot of the film
Directed by John Huston
Written by John Huston
Charles Kaufman (uncredited)
Narrated by Walter Huston (uncredited)
Release dates
  • 1946 (1946)
Running time
58 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Let There Be Light is a 1946 American documentary film directed by John Huston.

The film was the last in a series of three films directed by Huston while serving in the United States Army Signal Corps. This documentary film follows 75 U.S. soldiers who have sustained debilitating emotional trauma and depression. A series of scenes chronicles their entry into a psychiatric hospital, their treatment and eventual recovery. Some of the treatments involved then-new drugs and hypnosis, and the impression was given of miraculous cures, though the narration says that there will be continuing psychiatric care.[1]

Much of the filming was done at Edgewood State Hospital, Deer Park, Long Island, New York which between 1944 and 1946 was part of Mason General Hospital, a psychiatric hospital run by the United States War Department named for an Army doctor and general.

The film was controversial in its portrayal of shell-shocked soldiers from the war. "Twenty percent of our army casualties", the narrator says, "suffered psychoneurotic symptoms: a sense of impending disaster, hopelessness, fear, and isolation."[2] Apparently due to the potentially demoralizing effects the film might have on recruitment, it was subsequently banned by the Army after its production, although some pirated copies had been made. Military police once confiscated a print Huston was about to show friends at the Museum of Modern Art. The Army claimed it invaded the privacy of the soldiers involved, and the releases Huston had obtained were lost; the War Department refused to get new ones.[2] The release in the 1980s by Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander, Jr. was attributed to his friend Jack Valenti who worked to get the ban lifted. The National Archives now sells and rents copies of the film, and as a government work it is freely copied.

The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1981 Cannes Film Festival.[3]

In 2010, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[4][5]

The 2012 film The Master, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, borrowed lines and themes from Let There Be Light, which was included as an extra on the DVD/Blu-ray releases of The Master.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Simon Rothöhler: "Rückkehr des Verdrängten. Eine Mediengeschichte zu John Hustons Let There Be Light," in: Mittelweg 36, vol. 24, No 3, June/July 2015, pp. 4−18


  1. ^ Canby, Vincent (January 16, 1981), "'LET THERE BE LIGHT,' JOHN HUSTON VS. THE ARMY", New York Times, retrieved Sep 2010 
  2. ^ a b Michael Kernan (Feb 12, 1981), "War Casualty, John Huston's 1945 Film Now Public", Washington Post 
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Let There Be Light". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  4. ^ "'Empire Strikes Back' among 25 film registry picks". Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Barnes, Mike (28 December 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 

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