The Anti-Capital Punishment Message in film Dead Man Walking

The Anti-Capital Punishment Message in film Dead Man Walking
?Dead Man Walking?, directed by Tim Robbins, stars two well-known Hollywood actors, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, in the main roles. The film is based on the memoirs of Sister Helen Prejean altered to film fiction and adapted to the screen. The director uses film language to manipulate the emotions of the audience. In Poncelet?s death scene Robbins looks immediately at the mise en scene as very important at the beginning of this scene. Poncelet is made to wear slippers, which gives the audience the notion of his dignity being taken away. This is reinforced by Poncelet?s reluctance to wear them instead of his own boots. The walk to the Execution Room is very emotional for Poncelet and he finds it hard to hold back his tears of anguish. The guards escorting him wear blank expressions and the audience therefore gives more attention to Poncelet. At this point the film goes to slow motion. Music is played over the action it is very effective, Robbins has done this to fill the silence that occurs, there by making the audience be more involved in the scene. This use of non-diegetic sound creates an even stronger emotional mood and emphasises the slow motion used.
At one point Poncelet falls to the floor to speak with Sister Helen. The shot used by the camera is at a high angle representing how low he is and feels for the crime he has committed. Sister Helen says ?you look at me? Robbins chose these lines so that it feels to Poncelet as more of a command than a request which is true in some respect but sister Helen only puts it across like this because she has promised the sight of a kind face to the end. As they draw near the Execution Room she leaves to sit in the Witness Room, the camera doesn?t follow her instead it stays with Poncelet showing how she leaves Poncelet watching her until he is taken away by the prison guards. Poncelet is taken to the Execution Room. Breathing heavily and watching all that is going on he is extremely tense. He is strapped in with the buckle sound exaggerated along with the other diegetic sounds such as his heavy breathing and the snap of the glove as the doctor puts it on. This is given so the audience knows whose hand injects the needle. The whole impression of the process is one that is very cold and calculated. As the needle is put into position, instead of showing the doctors expression with a long shot, the camera focuses in on the doctor?s hands with a close up, which reminds the audience of the bitter process. The presentation of Poncelet is shown like a stage show. To begin with curtains are drawn back giving a very strong idea of exactly that. This effect is made obvious by the overstated diagetic sound of the curtain moving along the rail. Robbins stops the music before he does this. So that it is clear to the audience the curtains is the first sound to break the silence. Poncelet is asked if he has any last words. This is a very significant part of the film. During his speech he is barely able to speak so the audience feel exceedingly sorry for him. As Poncelet apologises to the parents of the children he murdered the camera doesn?t stay on Poncelet but cuts to who he is addressing to see how they react which tells the audience how he has changed his attitude and sees if it affects the parents. The top lighting used is quite bright, therefore making it clear to see Poncelet?s face free of any dark shadows and Robbins takes this moment to give the film?s message ? "killing is wrong; no matter who does it". The timing is well placed because it is an extremely emotional point and the audience take Poncelet?s side after he admitted to the killings since for a long time he denied the murder. The camera uses a technique called a crane to look from Poncelet?s face to a clock, pausing as it strikes 12 o?clock and Poncelet tilts his head to one side to look at Sister Helen. When the camera is on Sister Helen and the lawyer with the glass between them and Poncelet, Poncelet?s face is reflected in-between, so the director shows every facial expression of all three characters at the same time. The lawyer finds he cannot watch and bows his head. The glass also appears to be a barrier between them; this is done to show they are not in the same room giving the idea of separation. This also stops some degree of sound getting through so director chose for sister Helen to mouth "I love you" giving a clear idea that their time together was not wasted but meant something. In juxtaposition to Poncelet?s death scene flashbacks of his night of crime cause a different effect on the audience. Until this point the audience feel sorry for Poncelet but then Robbins decides to give the full story of what happened on his night of crime. As the audience realise what it was that happened some their emotional support for him subsides. During the flashbacks the camera moves behind the trees giving the effect of voyeurism which makes the audience feel as if they are there watching the events in person thereby making them feel more involved. As it draws nearer to Poncelet?s death the non-diegetic music increases in volume creating a very dramatic mood to the scene. The execution is very cold and to emphasise the coldness shots of the parents? faces are given across as very blank and unemotional. The music builds and begins to beat like a heart beat which could belong Poncelet. The diagetic sound, although very loud is minimal. The injection machine gives a very loud thump as each stage of the execution process is completed, to assist this the camera shows close-up shots of the control panel of the execution machine with its list of each stage: ?start, armed and finish?. The final thump is heard as the camera gives a bird?s eye view of Poncelet. As it thumps his eyes open and the heart monitor indicates he is dead with a continuous beep. Everything is emphasised and clear so there is no mistake what has happened and the camera slowly spirals up, perhaps trying to say he went to heaven? Or just that his life has left his body? The camera takes a shot of the two bodies of the murdered victims in the woods and dissolves to the same bird?s eye view as in the woods on Poncelet this shows how they are in a similar body position. Poncelet is in the shape of a cross which makes the audience feel like he has just been crucified, this is how Jesus was killed. It feels as unjust for Poncelet as for Jesus yet the circumstances are different as Poncelet has his guilt Robbins has dealt with important issues and raised questions about the violent murder of innocent children, how their parents feel, and the questionable way society deals out punishment of death. By the use of certain types of camera work, music and acting draws he out of the viewer sympathy for the criminal, understanding of the parents and in consequence emotional conflict in themselves as to man?s right to ?play God?.

The Anti-Capital Punishment Message in film Dead Man Walking 6.9 of 10 on the basis of 3493 Review.