To Kill A Mockingbird

Director: Robert Mulligan

1962

To Kill A Mockingbird is a model for literary adaptations, retaining seemingly inconsequential details along with major, heartbreaking, or deadly events – whether the children’s games, a hungry farm boy drowning his dinner in syrup, Finch shooting a rabid dog, the lynch mob outside the jailhouse shamed to their senses by a child, or the black community tensely following the trial in the stifling balcony – as Mulligan brings his experience in live TV production to craft a discreetly atmospheric, intimate character drama.” (394, Angela Errigo, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

To Kill A MockingbirdI studied To Kill A Mockingbird at high school – a fair number of years ago now – and watching the film instantly transported me back to my teens. Despite having spent at least a term, if not an entire year, dissecting the novel I was hard pressed to remember any of the thematic threads running through the narrative. Luckily To Kill A Mockingbird does such a good job it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the book for more than a decade. And it reminded me why the book is taught, to this day (though not for much longer if Mr Gove gets his way!!), in schools across England.

While we may not live in America and therefore have little experience of the small towns in the deep South this lack of experience is not as detrimental as you think it may be. The lessons at the very heart of the narrative are universal – everyone is equal and treated as such.

Atticus Finch is one of the most powerful figures, in the film certainly and I would go so far as to say in cinema as well. As a lawyer he is obviously intelligent and well-educated but the real power of his character comes from his beliefs and the gentle way he is instilling these beliefs in his children. He’s commanding to watch yet throughout a series of difficult events he retains his calm demeanor, never once raising his voice or is hand, which only increases the level of respect his character garners.

From past reviews you may have gathered that in general I am not a fan of child actors – indeed a vast number of them drive me to distraction – but thankfully that is not the case here. “The children are terrifically natural in important roles, particularly the ingenuous Scout Finch played by nine-year-old Alabaman Mary Badham.” (394) Scout is fantastic and she has to be as the narrative is very much driven by here. After all these are her memories we are experiencing. She has this wonderful innocence about her, best illustrated when she unknowingly disperses a lynch mob just by talking to them, which for a wonder never becomes cloying or irritating. Thanks to her upbringing she accepts people as they are and cannot really see why some people behave differently.

Boo Radley has become a character synonymous with those on the fringes of society. As Errigo says he is the “[…] bogeyman of [the children’s] fantasies, and ultimately their savior, Boo Radley.” (394) Scout treats him with a gentle kindness and Atticus not only allows her to, but also encourages her behavior. Atticus is an excellent role model for not only parents, but all adults around the world, reminding us all we should be less judgmental, close-minded and cynical especially when it comes to passing our behaviors and beliefs onto the younger generations.

I’m glad to have watched To Kill A Mockingbird again, and as an adult this time around. It is a wonderfully constructed film with charming performances from the young cast and some vital life lessons at the heart of the narrative. In short everyone should watch To Kill A Mockingbird at least once in their lifetime.

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Carrie

Director: Brian De Palma

1976

“[…] Carrie marked his breakthrough. It is an operatic horror melodrama blending the family gothic, supernaturalism, and teen movie. It remains the cinema’s best adaptation of a Stephen King novel.” (605, Adrian Martin, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

CarrieThe thing I found most disturbing about Carrie was not the telekinesis, murder and mayhem but actually the blind religious fever of Carrie’s mother. She is by far the scariest character with her one track mind. Her overbearing nature is way more destructive than the other factors that contribute to the film’s now iconic climax. Carrie is routinely subjected to abuse, often confined to a cupboard and forced to pray for forgiveness for the perceived sins she has committed in her mother’s eyes. And for the most part these ‘sins’ are beyond her control like getting her period for the first time. The Jesus in Carrie’s penance cupboard has to be the creepiest depiction of the deity I have ever seen!

Carrie remains one of the best examples of how very cruel teenagers can be and the devastating effects of such cruelty. During those key transitional years from childhood to adulthood are some of the toughest and everyone can relate to them. “We watch with ambivalence as Carrie’s revenge fantasies cross the line into uncontrolled mass murder in the climatic prom scene (a De Palma tour de force.)” (605) The one bright spot, of sorts, is Sue who has the courage to detach herself from the herd to help Carrie have a normal high school experience like going to senior prom. Yes she takes her time in doing so but the important thing is that she separates herself from the destructive hive mind that was the popular crowd. Sue is not only the lone survivor of the carnage Carrie unleashes at the prom but the only person who tries to warn about the impending humiliation. I have a lot of sympathy and respect for Sue.

“Sissy Spacek is astonishing in the title role.” (605) For a “plain Jane” you cannot take your eyes off her. Her innocence and naivety made me want to protect her from the brutality her classmates subjected her to – as well as her crazy religion obsessed nut job of a mother. I had absolutely no sympathy for anyone trapped in the school hall – they got their comeuppance.

I’d quite like to see the most recent remake of Carrie (2013, Kimberly Peirce) because I know that remakes of this particular film have had little success and are really rather poor imitations. Carrie is still an excellent horror film and one that is infinitely easier to relate to than many of the other films in the horror genre.