Monday, September 24, 2007

Dead Man Walking by Tim Robbins

Death penalty is a debatable topic in the modern age. Certainly the penalty does not help the guilty. The rationale seems to be that it acts as a strong deterrent for others. It also acts as an outlet for the affected parties to have their revenge in a legal manner.

This motion picture deals not just with a man knowing that he will die in a couple of days and how he responds to this knowledge, it also deals with the themese of compassion, institutionalized redemption, the "cold equations" of the inevitability of a planned death, of the relationship between parents and their children, and the themes of guilt, denial, and dignity.

In many movies, an emotional reaction in an audience is through the identification and transference of characters' emotions. The tears and intensity of a character in the movie often has the effect of inducing tears and emotions in the audience. The more realistic a movie, the more it deals with the normal human relationships that everybody is familiar with (parent-child, man-woman, fear-death), and the better the acting, the greater the intensity of the emotional response of the audience. Frequently, an ovation within the movie effects an ovation in the audience itself (example: Al Pacino's speech in the Scent of a Woman).

That said, this movie has two great performances. Susan Sarandon typifies compassion and a motherly-womanly love, and Sean Penn typifies an adult still in essence, naive and innocent, a precocious child (not really evil, we never really come to hate him. He has his faults, but we see his faults through a mother's eyes, and hence we see the essential humanity of his character. He has faults which each one of us has, to a greater or lesser degree.).

The vocal and Indian instrumental music lend the movie a spiritual, alternate-world, non-establishment feel. The music might be alien to many ears, and that serves the context: A life of full-time service and compassion is alien to us, as most of us are caught up in our own ambitions and hedonism.

The love felt by Poncelot (Sean Penn's character) is a motherly love, the love of being accepted unconditionally, despite one's faults, the love which makes one want to be a better person. The love felt by Sister Helen (Susan Sarandon) is a little more complex. It is compassion mixed with a longing to be united with the object of one's compassion. It is a divine as well as a human love. The urge to whisper and comfort, the urge to touch and kiss, the tears in one's eyes knowing that the other person loves oneself, all point to a love that is of a more personal nature. It does involve the feelings of incompleteness felt by all of us, which we seek to fulfill by uniting with our complement. Sister Helen does feel a womanly love for Poncelot (especially poignant when in one of her dreams, she sees Poncelot sitting at her dinner table waiting for her).

Is it true that the capacity for love is more in a woman? Is it true the women feel identified with men who can admit their weaknesses? Women want their men to be men in the world, but to them, they should be bare, vulnerable chidren. The theme of a man who is in need of reform, and who responds to the love of a woman, brings out the mother in his beloved.

(to be continued)

Recommendation: Very Good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Penn really brought the character he played to life.