Saturday, March 12, 2011

#218. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

DVD Synopsis: Gregory Peck won an Oscar for his brilliant performance as the Southern lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape in this film version of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The way in which it captures a time, a place, and above all, a mood, makes this film a masterpiece. The setting is a dusty Southern town during the Depression. A white woman accuses a black man of rape. Though he is obviously innocent, the outcome of his trial is such a foregone conclusion that no lawyer will step forward to defend him—except Peck, the town's most distinguished citizen. His compassionate defense costs him many friendships but earns him the respect and admiration of his two motherless children.

Based on Harper Lee’s award-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird mourns the loss of innocence, when a child’s world is torn apart by events they cannot possibly understand. The film begins under the promise of a bright summer day in Maycomb, a “tired old town”, as the narrator tells us. But this tired town soon wakes up, bristling with emotions so powerful they turn neighbor against neighbor. 

To Kill a Mockingbird takes us back to a small Alabama community in the 1930’s, a time when segregation was still the rule of the day. 

Scout (Mary Badham) and her brother Jem (Philip Alford) are a couple of kids without a care in the world, and spend their days getting into all sorts of mischief. 

 But the fun and games are brought to an abrupt end when their father, Atticus (Gregory Peck), a lawyer, agrees to defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused of raping a white girl (Collin Wilcox Paxton). 

Atticus tries to convince his children that he’s standing up for what’s right, even if the entire town seems to think otherwise. 

I first saw To Kill a Mockingbird back when I was a kid, not much older than Jem or Scout, and I connected with them instantly. In it's early scenes, To Kill a Mockingbird wonderfully recreates the purity of childhood, a purity that is stripped away once Atticus accepts Tom Robinson’s case. It's at this point that Jem and Scout are thrust into the "adult" world of hatred and bigotry. Words like rape, violence and murder become a part of their vocabulary, and their carefree existence was gone in a flash, never to return. 

As seen time and again in To Kill a Mockingbird, the virtue of youth is no match for society as a whole, and no matter how hard we fight it, we all have to grow up sometime. 

Damn shame.

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