The Killing Fields (1984)

Brief Intro

“The Killing Fields” is a 1984 British drama film directed by Roland Joffé. It tells the harrowing true story of the Khmer Rouge regime’s brutal reign in Cambodia, focusing on the friendship between American journalist Sydney Schanberg and Cambodian journalist Dith Pran. 🌾

Literary Devices Used in The Killing Fields


Movie SceneDevice Example
The title “The Killing Fields”Represents the genocide in Cambodia, fields where countless lives were lost
Sydney looking at the mass gravesSymbolizes the death and destruction caused by the regime


Movie SceneDevice Example
Pran’s escape across the killing fieldsRepresents the struggle for freedom and survival
The Buddhist statues amidst destructionSymbolizes resilience and the contrast between peace and violence


Movie SceneDevice Example
The New York Times award ceremonyThe celebration contrasts with the ongoing suffering in Cambodia
Pran’s family being spared initiallyThe illusion of safety despite impending doom


Movie SceneDevice Example
Pran’s initial unease about the Khmer RougeHints at the catastrophic events to come
Sydney’s persistent investigative workSuggests future confrontations and dangers


Movie SceneDevice Example
Pran recalling happier times with his familyHighlights the stark contrast with the present suffering
Sydney’s memories of their journalistic adventuresProvides context and deepens emotional impact


Movie SceneDevice Example
The depiction of the Cambodian landscapeThe land seems to cry out with the pain of its people
The oppressive atmosphere of Phnom PenhThe city is portrayed as suffocating and menacing


Movie SceneDevice Example
Scenes of daily life vs. scenes of violenceHighlights the abrupt change brought by the Khmer Rouge
Pran’s survival vs. others’ demiseEmphasizes the randomness and brutality of the genocide


Movie SceneDevice Example
References to historical eventsConnects the narrative to real-world history
Mentions of international responseAlludes to global political dynamics of the era


Movie SceneDevice Example
The lush Cambodian countrysideVivid descriptions contrast with the horrors taking place
Scenes of destruction and desolationPowerful visuals convey the tragedy


Movie SceneDevice Example
Sydney’s passionate speechesExaggerated expressions to emphasize urgency and emotion
Descriptions of the regime’s brutalityAmplified to highlight the severity of the atrocities

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Sydney Schanberg

IronySydney’s achievements are celebrated while his friend suffers, highlighting his internal conflict and guilt
JuxtapositionHis safe, Western world contrasts with the perilous environment Pran faces, underscoring their different struggles

Dith Pran

SymbolismPran’s journey represents the struggle and resilience of the Cambodian people
ImageryVivid descriptions of Pran’s experiences deepen our empathy and understanding of his plight

Character Dynamics

MetaphorThe friendship between Sydney and Pran symbolizes the connection between different worlds and shared humanity
ForeshadowingEarly signs of the regime’s brutality foreshadow the trials that test and ultimately strengthen their bond

Thematic Analysis

Survival and Resilience

SymbolismPran’s journey through the killing fields represents the fight for survival
ImageryDescriptions of the harsh conditions highlight the theme of resilience

Friendship and Loyalty

IronySydney’s public recognition contrasts with his private guilt over Pran’s fate
JuxtapositionThe safe environment of Sydney vs. Pran’s dangerous circumstances underscores their loyalty

The Impact of War

MetaphorThe killing fields as a representation of the war’s devastation
AllusionReferences to real historical events connect the film to broader themes of war and its consequences

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
ImageryCinematographyThe lush landscapes vs. the stark killing fields emphasize the contrast between beauty and horror
IronySoundtrackUplifting music during tragic scenes creates a jarring, ironic effect


Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
HyperboleCamera AnglesExaggerated close-ups on characters’ faces during intense moments to amplify emotions
PersonificationLightingThe oppressive atmosphere is enhanced by dim, harsh lighting

Key Scene Analysis

Scene 1: Pran’s Escape

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Scene Breakdown:

  • Literary Devices: Metaphor, Symbolism
  • Cinematic Techniques: Dynamic camera movements, intense sound design
  • Contribution: Highlights Pran’s determination and the theme of survival

Scene 2: The Award Ceremony

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Scene Breakdown:

  • Literary Devices: Irony, Juxtaposition
  • Cinematic Techniques: Contrasting lighting, parallel editing
  • Contribution: Emphasizes the contrast between Sydney’s recognition and Pran’s suffering

Scene 3: Reunion

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Scene Breakdown:

  • Literary Devices: Foreshadowing, Symbolism
  • Cinematic Techniques: Emotional score, close-up shots
  • Contribution: Underscores the enduring bond and the emotional payoff of their friendship


Quiz Time!

  1. What literary device is primarily used in the title “The Killing Fields”?
  2. Which character’s journey symbolizes resilience and survival?
    • A) Sydney Schanberg
    • B) Dith Pran
  3. What technique is used alongside hyperbole to amplify emotions in intense scenes?
    • A) Lighting
    • B) Camera Angles
    • C) Soundtrack