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Dead man walking - Film analysis

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Introduction

Dead man walking - Film analysis coursework For many years, the death penalty has been a punishment for severe crimes. However, the law has long moved on since then, and more humane ways of death have been devised for the few states where the death penalty is still legal. Lethal injection is now the main way of carrying out the penalty, and Texas is the state that uses it most. It is a very controversial punishment and the moral issues of it have been debated for a very long time. Many protests have been made to try and change this law, and they have been successful in most countries. The film 'Dead man walking' is set in the state of Louisiana, near Texas and re-enacts an ethical case where a decision whether to sentence a murder to death or not has to be made. During the film we can never be certain whether Tim Robbins is in favour, or against the death penalty. He uses very effective methods to represent both sides of this moral argument. For example, his methods include his choice of the character Matthew Poncelet, his choice of Sister Helen Prejean, sound effects and music, flashbacks, characters viewpoints, costumes and many more. One of the most important of these techniques is the way he has decided to present his main character, Sister Helen Prejean. The first time we see Helen Prejean is when she is driving to the 'Hope House' in her car. There is happy music in the background, which is another media technique used by director Tim Robbins to suggest to us that she is a likeable person. ...read more.

Middle

This shows that she loves her children and does what she can for them. She also talks about how Matthew's actions have affected her other kids. She sounds very upset when talking about how other boys from school pick on them. Overall, she is portrayed as a caring person. She accepts Helen's invitation to attend the appeal. The courtroom scene at first influences us against the death penalty, both when we see Mrs. Poncelet leaving the room in tears and with Hilton Barber's arguments. However, the prosecution lawyer evens out the balance with his arguments. The appeal scene begins with Mrs. Poncelet speaking about her son. Immediately she begins crying, whilst talking about what a nice person her son is. She does exactly what Hilton Barber expected, and he wanted her to do this to portray Matthew as a human being, rather than a monster. Poncelet's lawyer straight away starts in a negative way. He puts himself down by saying Matthew Poncelet couldn't afford a good lawyer and could only take what the state gave him. Also, when he is talking, he remains seated behind a desk, which shows signs of him being nervous. He has not argued a case for a long time, as he had retired and only returned for this one case. Hilton tries to get the sympathy vote from the panel, by pleading that everyone deserves to live and explaining in detail how lethal injection works. When he starts talking, Tim Robbins uses the voiceover technique to show how upset Matthew's mother was, but also let us hear Hilton Barber's argument. ...read more.

Conclusion

The fact that Matthew is crying, and literally shaking with fear through this scene makes us feel sympathetic towards him. When Matthew says his last words, he is held up on the bed with his arms spread out. This is reminiscent of Jesus being crucified. A connection is made between the two, and this leads us to believe Matthew's execution was also wrong. However, just as we begin thinking the death penalty is wrong and immoral, we see disturbing flashbacks of Matthew Poncelet and Carl Vitello raping and murdering the two teenagers. This reminds us of why Matthew is in this position. While the liquids are being injected into Matthew, there is plenty of cutting between the two scenes of death, the execution and the murders of Hope and Walter. The scene ends on Matthew Poncelet's death, which leaves it in our mind last. Straight away, we hear the voice of the priest speaking, as a voiceover at the very end of the execution scene. It carries through to the scene of Ponclet's funeral. Because the last things we see are the dead body of Matthew Poncelet, and people grieving at his funeral, the last thing we think of is how much pain the death penalty has caused. This leaves us thinking the death penalty is wrong. Although Tim Robins tries to even out the arguments for and against, the arguments against come over stronger, and overall, this film portrays the death penalty as immoral. The vast amounts of media techniques and character choices allow Tim Robbins to make us see exactly what he wants us to and this film is a very good example of how media is used effectively in films to get the right final impression. ...read more.

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