How does Peter Medak gain the viewer's sympathy for Derek Bentley in the film "let him have it"?
How does Peter Medak gain the viewer’s sympathy for Derek Bentley in the film “let him have it”?
The Derek Bentley case started on the 9th December 1952, it lasted only 75 minutes long and at the end of the trial Bentley has a death sentence and Chris had life. They were both charged of murder. Derek Bentley was executed at the age of 19 on January 28, 1953.
The film “let him have it” is based on this case; it is about the British legal system and how they got this case completely wrong.
The director Peter Medak, makes you feel the pain and emotion that Derek and his family were feeling at the time this happened. Medak does this in such a way that you could cry when Derek and his family were both happy and sad. He proves throughout the film that injustice was done, and uses acts of bias to get this point across to us as the audience. Normally when bias is used, you would think that it was for something bad but Medak uses bias in many different ways throughout this film. Medak uses bias in this film because he wants to show that in this case capitol punishment was wrong for the crime committed.
The story of Derek Bentley and Christopher Craig emerged when they met while Bentley was walking his dogs. From a very early age Bentley was easily led, this was great for Craig as he needed Bentley’s size and power to do different jobs. The thing that made them strong friends was when they both realized they had something in common this was “ Dyslexia”, they both could not read or write, this was the start to a good friendship that led them both into trouble.
Now you ask me “should Derek Bentley have been hung?” I feel completely one sided towards this because I honestly do not think that he did anything wrong. In my opinion he should never have been convicted of murder, he did not kill or hurt anyone! The only crime that he did commit was burglary and he didn’t really steal anything he tried to, so I would say that he was trespassing. I see it as it was those famous words “Let him have it Chris” as the word that put him to his death. He obviously used these words to say, “Give him the gun Chris” but this was turned around and used against him. Not for one minute do I think he was trying to say “shoot the cop, kill the basted”, I don’t think that he was that kind of person to do such a thing. There was not even enough evidence to convict Derek of murder, ok he had a knuckle-duster and a knife on him but I don’t think that he had any intention of using these weapons. There wasn’t even enough evidence to say that Chris killed PC Miles, as there were only two bullets found on the roof one of which was in the arm of Srg. Fairfax, on top of this the bullet that killed PC Miles was not the bullet from Chris’s gun it was a different type of bullet. But none of this would of happened if Chris didn’t fire the gun in the first place, so therefore he is most obvious to blame. Chris was not old enough to serve a death penalty, as he was only 16, so somebody had to be punished as at the end of the day an officer of the law was shot dead. The judge was too bias, he felt somebody should serve a punishment for this, and I guess that Derek was 19 so Derek had to suffer.
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This has been one of the most controversial screw ups by our government of all times, the thing is this sort of stuff happens in this day and age all of the time, and there would have had to have been a lot more evidence for somebody to get corporal punishment. Today if you do get charged with murder, you would not get the death penalty unless you had killed allot of people, or that the murder was so harsh that you needed to die for it. Christopher Craig received life and was held at her majesty’s pleasure, he was released in 1963 and only he really knows the truth. Just to summarize the main points why Derek Bentley should not have been hung are, Bentley did not poses or fire a gun, therefore he could not have killed PC Miles. Secondly Bentley was under arrest at the time of PC miles murder. Derek had the mental age of an 11 year old so he shouldn’t have even been in court. I leave you with this statement, At the time a death penatly was only given to somebody over the age of 18, so would it be right for a person with the mental age of an 11 year old to be executed?
Peter Medak has gained our sympathy for Derek by using many different camera angles, music and other techniques. The main way that he has gained sympathy is by using bias.
During Bentley’s childhood, there was a war going on in the world. From the moment that you see him you can feel the sympathy and emotion that Derek has gone through. This scene starts by an explosion, which then knocks a wall down. The wall fell on Derek and the camera shots used by Medak here are good for the occasion. As soon as the bricks are pulled away and you see the bruised and battered young boy, who was Derek Bentley, You can then see the sorrow and pain on Derek’s face. This makes the audience feel sorry for Derek and probably a bit unlucky as the knock on his head made him have an epileptic fit. And this is not a nice thing to watch anyway, but Medak uses this to his advantage. This becomes a crucial part of the film as it is one of Derek’s main problems that he goes through during is life. Medak focuses on the eyes of Bentley during the fit, which make’s the audience feel very sad and they do feel sorry for him. Bias is also used during his childhood; Medak highlights the important things during this time, these were his dyslexia and that he was an epileptic. Derek is caught stealing, but Derek didn’t realize what he was doing, he thought that it was a game, he was the only one to get arrested and this just shows you how easily led that he was. Derek was put into an approved school because he could not spell “florescent”, this shows that the court was bias, they thought he was in the wrong, without taking into consideration that Derek had disability’s. At this point Derek didn’t really have a clue what was going on in his life.
When Derek was older and more mature he came out of approved school and met his good friend Chris. He again gets led and gets too involved with Chris’s crew, which then led him on the roof of a building. This led up to the trail of him being found guilty of murder.
During the trial Medak uses bias to show that he felt nothing was done wrong. He shows the prosecutors as harsh, unjust, some would say that a stronger word to use would be “Prejudice”. Medak now tries to make the viewer concentrate their focus on Derek and his family, the camera never showed Chris’s family, as it was not important. When Derek is being asked questions you can see how confused he actually is, as he stutters and the music becomes high pitch to resemble the same feeling.
The execution scenes are very harsh to the viewer. You can feel the emotion, pain and confusion for Derek and his peers. The camera angles during this scene switch from Derek to his family to the clock. The execution was short and made me feel very sad for Derek’s family. They gave him a drink of some drug, maybe GHB to make him feel no pain and then they put the rope round his neck and drop the floor, his shoes fall off and Derek was dead. The camera then goes over to Derek’s family who are huddled together crying and preying for the best. The clock resembles a lot in the film as the time of the execution was at 9:00 am.
In conclusion I feel that Peter Medak has successfully delivered the message that he was trying to put across to the audience. The film has two messages to it; is capitol punishment right? And was injustice done? I think that Medak wanted to say these two points; he feels that the punishment was not right for the crime committed. Obviously I feel that the punishment was wrong and even now 30 or so years after the execution I still feel for him and what his family went through. Peter Medak’s use of skill’s and knowledge did show throughout the film, he used great camera shot’s and music to make you feel that tiny bit more sorry for Derek. I have found this very interesting and I have followed up on this, this was the last hanging in Great Britain, and if that system were here today a lot more people would be dead.
R.I.P Derek Bentley 1934-1953