An epic documentary a decade in the making, The Vietnam War is the latest work by Ken Burns and Lynn Novik which takes a 360-degree look at the conflict that would cost the lives of millions and create one of the defining periods of the twentieth century. The film features digitally remastered footage sourced from all over the world (some of which has rarely been seen since it was originally shot) as well as accounts from over ninety witnesses from both sides, including both political proponents and opponents and combatants from either side of the battle line in Vietnam. Filling out the picture of the devastating epoch are television broadcasts, pictures from some of the period’s most acclaimed photojournalists, clips of home movies, and audio recordings of conversations from the political administrations of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon.
Permanently intertwined with the events of the period was, of course, the music of the day. The documentary features over one hundred and twenty evocative songs from the era, including music from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, and others. No work would have Ken Burns’ stamp of approval without an epic score, and this one is no different—-in addition to music from the era of the Vietnam War, the film features original music composed (and recorded) by Academy Award-winning composers Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor along with pieces by David Cieri and Doug Wamble. It also boasts some new music arranged by Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who also recorded it along with the Silk Road Ensemble.
The Vietnam War is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, which includes all ten parts of the series presented this month on PBS as well as over one hundred minutes of additional footage (adding up to around eighteen hours total across ten discs). Extras featured on these collections include a 45-minute preview program, a couple of featurettes on the present lives of two of the interview participants, and some additional bonus content. If you’re a big fan but missed seeing it this time around on PBS, you will have another chance to see the documentary for free starting October 3rd (when the series will re-air on a weekly basis through November 28th). However, if you don’t want to risk missing one of the ten installments or if you want to be able to take a mental break without sacrificing the opportunity to see it in its entirety (this is really heavy stuff, after all), you may want to consider getting the series in disc form and watching at your leisure. If you think one of the disc sets might be right for you, you can grab the DVD and Blu-ray on Amazon (for $59.16 and $74.29, respectively). The Vietnam War: An Intimate History (a companion book to the series authored by the film’s writer Geoffrey C. Ward) is available on Amazon as well.