Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Film Club's Claustrophobic Drama

Sidney Lumet's 1957 masterpiece 12 Angry Men was the fare for Saturday night's feast of film (how very alliterative that sentence is..).

The film is a true classic, and as such rather unexpectedly only one of our assembled number had seen it before; that was yours truly and I reckon I was about fifteen or sixteen when I last clapped eyes on Henry Fonda heroically and implacably standing his ground against injustice and prejudice.
The film is definitive evidence that the cinema has no need of expensive effects or exotic locations to provide genuinely gripping drama.

For anyone who's not seen it (or possibly not even heard of it), apart from the very brief opening scene the entire film is set inside a small jury room from which the only exit is to the loo/washroom or back into court to deliver a verdict. In essence this makes it a very theatrical piece; indeed it is staged as a play on a fairly frequent basis to this day.Leaving aside some of the social mores of the nineteen fifties (all-male juries are extremely unusual in today's world, for example), the film still resonates with a passion for the ordinary man doing the right thing as Juror #8 (Fonda) slowly brings his antipathetic fellow jurors to understand what reasonable doubt is and how justice cannot be served unless they apply themselves properly to the task in hand.The script has some considerable elements of melodrama and occasionally (by modern standards) the set piece moments can seem stilted and unnatural; yet the power of seeing a disparate group turn their backs one-by-one on a juror who starts to display ugly and irrational prejudice against the type of person the defendant on whom they're passing judgement is, is immense. Now that's the way to deal with racism, with homophobia and all the other "isms" - simply refuse to engage.On the film club scale: Dong went to a gig at Maker instead, so heaven only knows how many fags he smoked; Shazzerooneypoos made no wuffling noises at all (a sign of avid attention); Dozybean (present in guest of honour capacity) thought it an excellent film; Frankenkeith was gripped throughout as was Mrs The Millbrooker.

After the film ended a lively debate ensued about the nature of crime and punishment before we descended into the usual mumblings and wine fuelled silliness; so if you decide to watch this one with friends - be ready for some great conversation afterwards, it provokes all sorts of idea and feelings. And it's all the better for that.

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