To Kill a Mockingbird
What is it about movies that captivate us? Do they merely tickle our fantasies, or do they evoke a much stronger emotional response? Perhaps one of the hallmarks of cinema is the ability of the scenes and the characters on film to connect with audiences, establishing a very powerful link between the viewer and the screen. Often, clever directors will use that association—created through a variety of cinematic techniques—to carefully craft a world on screen that will win over their audience.
A perfect example of this method of persuasion is used in 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird. Adapted from Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of 1960, the film follows ...view middle of the document...
The film, like the book, has been immensely popular for its unwavering plea for tolerance. Made in 1962, Mockingbird was released at the height of the movement for racial equality. The film's message was perhaps more meaningful then than it is now, but the central virtues and principles remain evergreen. As film critic Rachel Gordon says, even though society has changed since Mockingbird's 1962 release, the "strength of the issues relayed doesn't lose its appeal."
If audiences worldwide have been enamored with To Kill a Mockingbird for four decades, why would such a film be so universally popular? As previously mentioned, there are many devices filmmakers employ to reach their audience on a personal, emotional level. Director Robert Mulligan used a variety of techniques to connect with the audience, a considerable achievement given the nature of the film during the time period it was made in.
A major way this gets accomplished is by placing the viewing adult audience into the life of a child. Young children harbor no prejudices, nor do they possess any preconceived notions about other people or groups. Such negative ideas are learned, from other individuals and society as a whole. Yet children have no defense against the negative images they are presented with, and will accept these notions as truth. Scout and Jem perceive Boo to be a wild, crazily disturbed man, and they do not know any different. The audience is invited to experience what it's like for children to lose their innocence and see what the world is really like for the first time. This is a process by which the audience will unlearn their own prejudices about race, just as the children in the film unlearn theirs about Boo.
Adults viewing this film are first invited into the secret world of childhood through the opening title sequence. The audience is shown the little box that Jem uses to keep the objects given to him and Scout later in the story by Boo. To the beat of a simple, somewhat childish piano score, the audience is given a tour of this secretive pocket of a child's mind. To many children, these private possessions are absolutely important (similar to diaries). While somewhat primitive and subtle, this opening sequence immediately allows for viewers to come along with the children on their private little journey.
Following the titles, the life of the child begins to unfold, and audiences remember what it was like to be a free and innocent kid again. Scout is shown enjoying her childhood alongside her brother, Jem, and their friend, Dill. They go to school, get in petty fights, and run about the town on hot, sunny afternoons. They swing in tree tires, lay awake at night talking to each other, and confide in each other. Scout, Jem, and Dill are exhibited as innocent children enjoying their youth to the fullest, with no perception of evil, pessimism, or hatred. Their first experiences with these darker attributes of humanity aren't until their father becomes...