An awful lot of documentaries and movies have been made about the Vietnam War, but there’s always room for another great one. “An Unfinished Symphony” focuses on events surrounding the War protest that took place over the Memorial Day weekend in 1971. What made this demonstration unique was that it was conducted entirely by recently-returned war veterans. Marching in the reverse direction of Paul Revere’s ride of 1775, the vets educated the press and the people along the way as to what they had seen and what they had heard.
What makes this documentary unique is a structure tied to the music of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3, The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. The film is also broken into three separate movements, like the symphony, with sections devoted to historic events behind the protest, the march, and its short and long-term aftermath.
Directors Bestor Cram and Mike Majoros have found an amazing subject that neatly ties together both the conflict in Vietnam and the one that raged among the American people. Even the most conservative and patriotic U.S. citizens couldn’t easily dismiss the arguments of soldiers who had experienced the war firsthand. This protest seemed to have changed a lot of minds and gone a long way toward speeding up a final resolution. Unlike other protests, this one ended in peace, at least physically. Many local residents had to question their own views as they compared the veterans to the Minutemen who once travelled the same route. In reviewing the aftermath of both the protest and the war, this film also demonstrates that much of the conflict was prolonged by the two sides never really coming to understand one another. For the war at home, this protest went a long way toward bridging the gap between American supporters and protesters by demonstrating how exactly it all went so wrong. Education is always more useful than confrontation when settling a dispute, and this was one war protest that accomplished much more of the former than the often tragic results of the latter.