I understand that 1962 was a long time ago, but I still thought that To Kill A Mockingbird would have been a better film than it turned out to be.
The story about a white man defending a black man in a depression-era south, spends more than a hour before a courtroom scene of the defense. What I expected to be an emotionally charged movie, turned to be nothing more than Huckleberry Finn meets Boston Public. The show was draggy at times, but this was the 1960s, it was a time where there was little to compete for your attention, there was no 3D and the film was shot in a 4:3 ratio. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a film in 4:3 ratio.
The drudgery continued for nearly one hour, with just a slight (ever so slight) hint of what was to come during the first 60 minutes of the film. This was no high-octane action film, nor was it highly charged emotional one. The climax of one scene was Atticus Finch shooting a mad dog (literally) on the street, I guess this was the equivalent of dodging bullets in The Matrix. The courtroom scene was devoid of most usual courtroom antics, although there was some highly charged emotions in the courtroom, nothing comes even close to “You can’t handle the truth” (although nothing could come close to Jack Nicholson).
The show doesn’t make sense to me, and probably since I didn’t read the book it made even less sense that it should. I was left wondering why this show rates to highly and what the fuss was all about…..until.
Until I stumbled upon wikipedia to find out what this show was all about. Here’s the thing, the book (pulitzer prize winning material) was published in 1960, the movie was released 2 years later. The book was so influential it even ha it’s place in the Timeline of African American Civil Rights Movement. Not many books can be counted in a timeline for something as monumental as that. It was 5 years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. There were still things like separate drinking fountains for white and black folk. It’s modern day equivalent would be a US General defending a Taliban Soldier for killing and American.
The Movie is around Atticus Finch, and how a White Man defends a black man convicted of raping a white women. This was serious reading material. The Mockingbird itself is metaphor (not many of those in movies these days):
Atticus warns them that, although they can “shoot all the bluejays they want”, they must remember that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird”. Confused, Scout approaches her neighbor Miss Maudie, who explains that mockingbirds never harm other living creatures. She points out that mockingbirds simply provide pleasure with their songs, saying, “They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” Writer Edwin Bruell summarized the symbolism when he wrote in 1964, “‘To kill a mockingbird’ is to kill that which is innocent and harmless—like Tom Robinson.”
I later read that Atticus Finch was actually a role model for many lawyers and remains to this day one of the most influential figures (fictional or otherwise) in legal circles. There is something to be respected in the character, the movie plays this out well. Although not as powerful a hero story as Schindler’s List or Hotel Rwanda, I have no doubt that given the context of the time the movie was released, it was every bit as powerful (or even more so).
In was in the this turning point of American History that Harper Lee decided to publish this book about heroism in the face of hatred, because only in the face of such hatred could such heroism be revealed.
In 1997, the Alabama State Bar erected a monument dedicated to Atticus in Monroeville marking his existence as the “first commemorative milestone in the state’s judicial history.
There is in fact more to this that meets the eye. That given the context in which the story was created, and the point in which America stood at the time. This could have been one of the most powerful movies ever made, but I can’t know for sure till I fully understand the context, that would come in my final thoughts.
That’s my 2 cents. Don’t spend it all in one place.