To Kill A Mockingbird

Directed by Robert Mulligan
Based on the novel by Harper Lee
Screened at FACT on 22nd and 24th June 2010

Reviewed by John Owen

Despite the problems with the old print, a packed audience saw the best Hollywood could offer in contribution to the race problem or question as it was posed at the time. Half a century on it still spoke passionately and truthfully to the world; not a thing needs changing.

What do you recall when you picture your growing years or childhood; those formative years? In my mind’s eye, I recall this being shown to us in school to prepare us for the future. Then I wouldn’t of appreciated the lyric beauty of the dialogue and the kaleidoscopic views of childish thought. As the grown ups in our lives rolled by, a world of danger, evil and ugly and brutal actions sometimes affecting the innocent and destroying them.

The glow of a child’s idealism and a natural sense of justice and search for simplicity in things. This protects them from the bitter truths they as the harbinger of the future world a society cleaned of the rotten things removed made new.

Those hot summers that lasted forever, adults took care of everything, children play or so it seemed. Here is Harper Lee’s genius and feeling for the sweet nostalgia and sentiment of youth all encapsulated in the games of Scout and Jem as they grow to realise the importance of their widowed father Atticus Finch - town lawyer and defending a black man accused of raping a white woman.

The film set in the 30s deep south echoed in its time, as the civil rights movement had begun and reached its peak almost, with Martin Luther King challenging the laws and Rosa Parks having the audacity to sit on a seat reserved for nice white folks because she was tired after working hard, and there were no seats left for the black people at the back of the bus.

Taking to task the taboos and racial prejudice through the lawyer’s battle to defend Tom Robinson, it tears apart the ignorant blind stupidity of the racist redneck ideology, that whipped up vigilante justice which often ended in lynch mobs taking the law into its own hands.

Another level of the film is the idea of rape in the family, and the low level of existence that reduced people to this status - the Depression is the backdrop to this great struggle,

Also we have the rites of passage as children overcome their fears of Boo Radley - a product of an interracial coupling (or so people thought), that had to be hidden away or denied the right to existence, or at least to be seen in daytime - a great shame or mark of Cain in those deeply religious times.

Then Robinson’s sympathy for the white woman defendant and the implication of the inferiority of the blacks: how dare they have the gall to be deferential to a superior race, the whites?

The chord this film struck then still chimes with the conscience of the audience today. Shot in black and white to great effect, this tale was not so black and white as the search for truth, justice and revenge or answers never is. It still provides a great emotional kick.

Gregory Peck gave the performance of his career - never topped it - despite the Omen’s great music score. This boring old lawyer - a deadeye crackshot for the army - is transformed many times because of his stand on great principles for humanity, even though robbed of the verdict to save his clients life, the moral judgement is glaring for all to see.

Cinema like this is magic when it captures the human heart and spirit and all its feelings, fears and desires, harnesses them into a great script and performs them with great actors who show great conviction, not showboating.

For the two hours nearly not one car crash or bomb blast in sight. A great and charming movie. See it next time, it will still be moving in another fifty years.

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by Minna Alanko on 19th July, 2010 at 12:28
What a good, emotive review! Well said.