Friday, June 19, 2015

Historically accurate? To Kill a Mockingbird

In the movie To Kill a Mockingbird attorney Atticus Finch defends a black man, Tom Robinson who is accused of the rape of Mayella Ewell. Atticus's children Scout and Jem are both exposed to the evils of
racism in the fictional  1930's Alabama town. Atticus teaches his children by example every person deserves a fair trial even when racism prevails over justice. Scout and Jem also spy on their neighbor, recluse Boo Radley over the two years the film depicts.

The two scenes shown depict two styles of lighting, high key and and low key lighting. The scene with high key lighting is one of the may courtroom scenes. This one is Atticus cross-examining Mayella during the trial. It is a good example of high key lighting as the film is in black and white. A 1930's courtroom had to be well lit as does a 21st Century courtroom. The contrast of shadows are evident but not over powering. The high key lighting contributes to the genre of the film, a historical mystery drama, by having the courtroom scenes well lit so the audience watching the film has no doubt as to what is happening.


The second scene is where Boo Radley saves Jem and Scout who are their way home from a Halloween party. A man attacks the children in a wooded area, knocks Jem unconcious and goes after Scout. Boo arrives and fights the guy off while Scout is trapped in her costume and cannot move very easily as it is a hardened piece in the shape of a ham. While Boo is fighting with the assailant Scout watches from inside her costume pressed against a tree. Boo carries Jem off leaving Scout behind. She gets free of her costume and runs after the two of them. All through the scene from the time Jem and Scout are walking through the wooded area to when Scout runs after Boo and Jem the use of low key lighting used very effectively. In the sections where more light is needed to make out details, just enough is used but not so much it over lights the surrounding area. The contrast of light, dark and shadows are wonderful.


The movie is based on the book written by Harper Lee. While the cor story line is fiction there are lot of similarities related to incidents in the authors life. Racism did exist in 1930's Alabama. There were white defense attorneys who though all men deserved a fair trial, even black defendants. The jury's were made up of twelve white men, no women and no colored people. While fiction this film is accurate in the sense of the topics it covers within the drama.

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc
High Key/Low Key, Deitcher, Kenneth. PSA Journal. Aug2008, Vol. 74 Issue 8, p18-19. 2p. 5 Black and White Photographs

Previous articles in series:
Historically accurate? Gladiator.