|The plague of racial hatred. In To Kill a Mockingbird, a small southern town ravaged by the Depression is unknowingly diagnosed with this even more devastating disease. One lone soul is prepared to make the diagnosis. An adaptation based on the classic Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a legendary movie, uniquely strong and sensitive about racism and the ways of the Old South during the Depression in the 1930s. It is accurately portrayed and still remains one of the most powerful arguments against racism ever revealed on screen. The film however, does not only focus on the issue of racism, yet it also deals with courage, innocence, childhood, education, prejudice and the lessons that we learn in life.
Several kinds of courage can be recognised in this film. There is the basic courage required to overcome childish fears, such as running past the Radley place, or returning there to fetch the trousers that Jem caught on the fence. Atticus also shows a form of childish courage when he shoots down the mad dog, even considering that he has a gun with him. A moral form of courage is shown by Scout, when she is asked by her father not to retaliate when children tease and torment her and himself. The most evident and difficult courage is shown by Atticus when he is certain to lose but still chooses to defend Tom Robinson, due to his great integrity. Though Atticus is pressured and harassed on all fronts and loses friends over the incident he gains the respect of his children and the black population of their 'dirty' town. The weakest person, in the sense of courage is Bob Ewell as he seeks to take revenge on Atticus' children but faces them in darkness rather than in the light of day.
The image of the mockingbird occurs frequently in the film. The children are warned that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because all it does is sing. Both Tom Robinson and Boo Radley can be compared with a Mockingbird as they are both gentle people who have done no harm but tried to help others. Both their lives are predictions made by the prejudice society they live in and due to certain circumstances and backgrounds they don't have the power to change what people think. Like the mockingbird itself Tom and Boo should be protected and cared for, not hunted down. The most powerful story in the film is that of Tom Robinson and when justice is killed, and the childhood innocence of Jem, Scout, and Dill is lost.
The film presents us with an idealised form of childhood, where the narrator looks back to her youth and selects important incidents and events. So we have an unusual and fresh view of all the incidents through the eyes of an innocent child. All the virtues that children possess are shown in the film such as their innocence, frankness and a great amount of humour. We can also notice how they are growing up and their decision making have change. Scout realises that "one must lie under certain circumstances". Their fresh outlook on people and events contrasts with the fixed, prejudice ideas of the people of that 'tired old town'.
Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) is a successful lawyer in Alabama, raising two children (Scout, played by Mary Badham, and Jem, portrayed by Phillip Alford) without their mother. It is very hard to imagine the adaptation of this movie without Gregory Peck's fantastic, award-winning performance as Atticus Finch. He is intelligent, strong, charismatic, articulate, sympathetic, thoughtful, responsible, compassionate, and very human. His acting is so natural and his interaction with the children is so real that it seems the movie is taken from his own life. The portrayals of his children are completely stunning, too. Both were "original" Southern kids with no previous acting experience. Still, they behave so naturally in front of the camera that it truly is surprises that neither of them has furthered their acting careers, aside from one or two additional supporting parts. The movie also features a very young Robert Duvall in his first movie role. His mysterious, somewhat disturbed, yet still sympathetic portrayal of Boo Radley caught everyone's eyes.
Great credit should be given to all camera crew and the director of this great film as they have used brilliant film techniques to capture all they could and to maximise viewing quality. Although the film was black-and-white, a very creative use of the camera was that most of the camera angles and views were taken from the perspective of the children, meaning that we could almost feel what they felt. Lighting was used to great effect as the director used shadows to sometimes paint pictures of what was happening in the background. There was a sense that the music did not live up to the scenes that were being shot in the film, however the characters made up for it. The dialogue was carefully chosen from the book, which meant that all the important scenes would have all the important speech implemented. The director has also created moods such as suspense and fear such as the time when the children were walking to the Halloween pageant and were attacked by Bob Ewell. Sound effects such as, wind blowing, trees rustling, and a second pair of footsteps all attributed to the suspense of the seen and the rest of the film.
I did like the fact that To Kill A Mockingbird doesn't take an easy road; it has a relatively happy ending, but the movie confronts some tough issues along the way and it doesn't flinch from presenting unpleasant outcomes. Most of the parts in the film are very much like the book. Some however are twisted to save time, such as not introducing and telling the life of Mrs Dubose, or how Jem ripped his pants on the fence and ran back straight away to retrieve them. Another seen shows that Bob Ewell spat on Atticus, in front of Jem and Mr Robinson's home, yet in the book the incident occurs in front of the post office. Another observation is that the book makes a full rotation from the start to the end (it starts where it ends and finishes where it starts) whereas the film begins in a later scene than the book. There is some confusion on where the climax of the film is and it is quite difficult to notice that it is in fact the part where Boo Radley saves Scout and Jem and reveals himself to them.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" is a masterpiece that belongs in every serious movie collection. It features a number of memorable visuals and story elements, as well as outstanding performances by both actors and contributors. This timeless tool for imparting values to young viewers is a prime example of what cinema, at its best, can achieve. And few screen heroes provide as good a role model as Atticus Finch. This film can be seen as a classic and yet it can still relate to many issues faced today. All leads to what is one of the best endings I have ever seen in a film. You are sure to be absolutely bamboozled.