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How does Peter Medak gain the viewers sympathy for Derek Bentley in the film, 'Let Him Have it'?

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Introduction

How does Peter Medak gain the viewers sympathy for Derek Bentley in the film, 'Let Him Have it'? The film 'Let Him Have It', tells the real-life story of Derek Bentley. Derek is a nineteen year old epileptic who is caught breaking into a shed in his early youth. He is sent to approved school but is released early due to his epilepsy and his low IQ. It is later on discovered that Derek has the mental age of eleven, this plays a great part in the injustice later on. After his release he ends up being involved with a local youth, Christopher Craig, an American style gangster with a dangerous hobby. Derek follows Chris around, undertaking any activity which he does. One of these includes a midnight robbery of a warehouse. This, however, turns drastically wrong when Chris ends up shooting two officers, fatally wounding one whilst injuring another. Both boys are found guilty of murder and Chris is imprisoned, leaving Derek to face the death penalty. Despite obvious bias and protests, the sentence is carried out. The story is so controversial for many reasons. One was being Derek's mental age of eleven. Any eleven-year-old would not be allowed in court, let alone face the death penalty. There was also strong bias on behalf of the judge involved, pressuring the jury into their verdict. It was also an unfair charge as Derek did not actually commit the murder. In this essay, I will discuss how Medak uses lots of close-ups for emphasis on Derek's emotions; how he seems never to fit in and is alienated from his problems; different camera angles and lighting angles used to create emphasis; how Derek and Chris' lives are contrasting and are made to look obvious; how innocence is used as a tool to make us associate it with Derek; the clothing Derek wears and the connotations of those styles of dressing and the issues of the story (justice and bias) ...read more.

Middle

This means he does not fit in, in the two places he should (with his friends and with his family). This is another device Medak has used to create sympathy. There are some scenes in the film, in which Medak uses a mixture of devices to create sympathy. These scenes are particularly interesting as they give the viewer a chance to create a better impression of him. This in turn creates sympathy as the scenes are particularly traumatic, and we can empathise with Derek being involved in such situations, no eleven year old should be put through. One of these scenes is the trial scene. Derek is being charged with the murder of P.C. Miles. The scene opens with a view of Chris Craig who is sat, looking very different to Derek. He has a smug impression on his face, showing he has no respect for authority. It is obvious in the early scenes that Derek does and so we again feel the two should not have been involved together. After the injured police officer and Chris have been interviewed, it is Derek's turn in the dock. He is immediately seen as uncomfortable in the situation. He is stammering badly as he tries to answer. This relates to the way in which a young child would act in the situation - this behaviour is seen throughout the scene. They query Chris's gun collection, of which Derek is unaware. They accuse him of knowing he was in possession of a gun on the night of the murder, which Derek denies truthfully. However, the judge and the barrister continue to pressure him to say otherwise. Derek's head is bowed as he cannot seem to bear looking up and facing the problem in front of him. This conduct also resembles that of a youngster. As the barrister pummels Derek with questions, the camera flicks between the faces of the barrister, Derek and the judge. The effects of the intense camera shots mirror the intensity of Derek's emotions. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is a very poignant moment as it signifies the end of Derek's time on Earth. As you can see, Medak has used many devices to gain the viewer's sympathy for Derek. He has used clothing, the way it shows his innocence and how it mirrors his dad's style, therefore highlighting his juvenile mentality; how he has used close-ups and extreme close-ups to make it easier to realise what he is thinking and sympathise with that; how lighting is also used to symbolise his innocence, or the opposite (in this case, dark to show criminal activity); how he has shown Derek as not fitting in with anyone and being alienated from his situations and consequently feel sorry that he cannot fit in; how he blatantly compares Chris' and Derek's lives to make it obvious Derek should not have been involved with them in the first place as they are total opposites and so sympathy is felt when he gets into trouble, as he should not really have been involved with them. Also, how Medak mixes all the things mentioned above to generate scenes which combine to make scenes of great emotion which are easy to empathise with. The opinion of Medak is quite obvious to thinking Bentley was innocent, and the way he uses Derek's innocence versus the dark, gangster style of Chris makes this plain to see. The overall message of the film seems to be to prove Derek's innocence. The sympathy generated during the film makes this point clear, as in every scene there is an instance in which Derek is shown to be just a simple child who wants a nice life with his parents. He is very biased in his opinions, and shows this during the court scene where the Judge and jury are biased against Derek despite the obvious innocence. The devices he uses are very effective, as it is very easy to identify with Derek and his family, so you can sympathise with the situation he is in. The film overall, I feel puts this point across well. Media Coursework 'Let Him Have It' Louise Tarsky ...read more.

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