Basic Training

As dozens of plainclothes youth, their hair still long and their blue-jeaned gait still casual, stream out of a bus and into an unmarked building, we are invited to take part in Basic Training, Frederick Wiseman’s immersive portrait of the nine weeks of Army training camp that each new enlisted and drafted recruit must endure. Intense discussions on the ethics of combat precede automatic weapons training, the severity of this message somewhat undone by the ridiculous moral tales in their marching cadences, and a moment of levity during a dental hygiene video. Embedded deeply within the rank-and-file at Fort Knox, Wiseman’s observant camera follows each detail and process as new intakes learn the proper way to scrub a urinal, sergeants hammer through marching drills, and the highest-ranking officers deliver motivational speeches to the impressionable minds that stare a potential Vietnam deployment squarely in the face.

Dir. Frederick Wiseman, 1971, 16mm, 80 min.

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