film: Kramer: Inherit the Wind (1960)

The difficulties I have in viewing films is the same I have in listening to music or poetry–I find it almost cruel to separate its parts; to dissect a work of art truly is dissection in its most violent sense, it is equal to the dehumanization present alongside any occupied surgical table. Yet, it must be done, so it seems. But I cannot do it very well, it is almost painful to me, and to do so minimizes the beauty. Though, would I say the same when it comes to understanding natural science, that with such knowledge the landscape may be that much grander? But poetry, I will listen to it, I will read it, and I will not hear a word, I will hear sounds. I often catch myself not paying attention to the meanings of words in everyday speech, because I am listening to the flow and rhythm of the speech instead. I should be combining all so many things to make sense. Inherit the Wind is a beautiful film–not only does it really stick it to the idiots, which I particularly enjoy watching, it humanizes all the characters, I wept for each of them, whether I detested or loved them, they seemed worth my tears. And then there is the camera-work, which I mostly take for granted, and just as the film neared its close, I remembered that I haven’t been paying attention to the cameras, and at what point am I watching a film for pleasure, not for intellectual stimulation? Am I gaining anything? The character Matthew Brady collapses, and the next shot views him from overhead, from above a ceiling fan, as a crowd swarms around him. And what do we see? A woman clasps her hands together, looks up towards the heavens, and cries “oh lord, grant us a miracle and save our holy prophet!” But–who does she send the plea to? Assuming that she cannot see the camera, which is intercepting the message, which finally goes out to the audience, she’s begging for help from the motorized, cyclic-motional ceiling fan. The Christian Heaven and God have been replaced, if not created by, the ingenuity of man: precisely what the film makes clear through its dialogue. In fact, the outcome of the trial is determined, if not to the jury, at least to the film’s producers, and, we assume, the slavish audience, by the usage of God’s book to prove the truth in Darwin. Sentient man, obedient god.

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