After viewing the film, in what ways do you believe this medium effectively captured Harper Lee’s intended message? In what ways does the film fall short in doing so? Provide both a critical analysis and a personal critique of the film?
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The film, in my opinion and the opinion of many, does a very fine job in capturing and conveying the message of the book. Gregory Peck is excellently cast as Atticus Finch, and the scene in which he walks out of the courtroom, having lost the case but having earned great respect among local black citizens, is very powerful. Peck does a fine job of conveying the integrity, seriousness, and wisdom of Finch, both as a lawyer and as a parent.
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Having received Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Art Direction, along with other nominations, the film To Kill a Mockingbird is to this day highly acclaimed as a moving and influential drama. Certainly, there is a genuineness of character in Atticus Finch just as there is in the novel by Harper Lee.
Of course, film can only develop character as far as action and dialogue will allow. Many of the internalizations of Scout are omitted even if she does narrate her thoughts. And, of course, minor characters such as Dill, Miss Maudie, Mr. Dolphus Raymund, Calpurnia, and others are not as well developed as they are on the pages of the novel.
Gregory Peck's portrayal as Atticus Finch was named by the American Film Institute as the "greatest movie hero of the 20th century." The film has made many all-time Top Ten lists, and Peck won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. The movie has also been ranked as the #1 courtroom drama in film history. The film was nominated for eight Oscars (winning three), and it won three Golden Globe awards.
I think we need to remember that film as a mediium is very different from the medium of a novel, and so the film version of this text is going to be very different, especially in terms of the narration of Scout and how her character is explored, as other editors have responded. However, at the same time, we could argue that the visual element of films make them better than novels in certain ways, and this is definitely the case in particular scenes, such as the one highlighted in #3.
The film does an excellent job of conveying the legal aspect of the novel in regards to the Tom Robinson trial and its aftermath, but what is missing, is the multi-layered ways that Harper Lee explores her various themes. By not being able to include all of the small subtle scenes with some of the minor characters, we lose out on the contrast between Aunt Alexandra and Atticus, for example. That said though, the film does a great job of illustrating the theme of courage in all its many forms: Miss Maudie, the mad dog, the jail stand-off, the trial and Boo's saving of the children all make it into the movie.
I agree that the film captures many aspects of the book very well. We can see and experience the attitudes of the time. The casting is excellent in this film. We really get a feel for many of the characters as they appear in the novel. However, any film will fall short in some areas. As stated above, many minor characters are cut out completely. We also miss out on some of the inner monologue of Scout. Music can allow us to infer some of the emotion and context that is written out in the novel. I also think the movie cuts too much of Boo Radley out. His character is an important point in the novel but he isn't as much of a player in the movie. I do wish his character had more development in the film, but overall it is a worthwhile representation of the novel.
I also agree that the film is a very successful adaptation (or translation or whatever term you want to us) of the novel, but I think that -- like a few posters before me -- we really need to focus on specific scenes in the novel and film for that statement to have any meaning.
In addition to the scenes that are lifted from the novel and filmed in a literal fashion, we might look at scenes in the film that don't exist in the novel but nonetheless help the film to succeed in capturing the novel's messages. For example, as readers, we do not follow Atticus, Jem, and Scout as they get in the car and drive to the Robinson's house so that Atticus can confer with Tom Robinson's wife. We do not read in the novel about Ewell's sudden (and very scary!) appearance outside the car in which Jem is sitting and Scout is sleeping. And, most importantly, we do not read about the shadow of Bob Ewell's hand falling across Jem's face. The repeated use of the shadow falling across Jem's face or body in the film (see, also, the scenes on the Radleys' back porch and on the way home from the school pageant) plays to the strengths of film (a visual medium) much like the first-person narration in the novel plays to the strengths of print.
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