Monday, November 19, 2012
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those stories that has eluded me for years. It was taught at my high school but I had taken certain English classes with certain teachers in a particular arrangement that skirted around having to read To Kill a Mockingbird. I didn't avoid it, it was avoiding me. I had never seen the movie either. I was grateful for an opportunity to read the book and watch the movie on the big screen.
Since I had read the book very recently, I had it fresh in my mind and because I hadn't seen the movie before I came to it not knowing what to expect.
The movie stays true to the book but it is very different. There are lots of characters missing and lots of scenes that were left behind. In the book, Atticus is very much a secondary character. The main focus is Scout and her brother Jem. It's really their world and point of view that we are experiencing.
When you read a book, the characters come to you with a blank state. The author builds the characters the way he or she wants and we as the reader visualize them in our mind. It's a very different experience with a movie. We are provided with visuals and with actors playing the parts that we would have otherwise created in our minds. Gregory Peck is Atticus Finch when we watch the movie but when we read the book Atticus Finch is our visualization of Atticus Finch.
Having read the book so recently, I was waiting for certain scenes and characters to appear and felt a bit worried when they didn't. But I realized that the book could provide me with more information while the movie only had a couple of hours to deliver the story. While the book focuses mostly on the child characters, the movie HAS to focus on Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch because Peck is the star. He's the draw, the anchor to the story and what keeps the plot going. In the book it's very much about Scout and Jem. Not to say that the two unknowns who played the children didn't get their screen time or were neglected in the film. I thought the film beautifully portrayed the importance of both Scout and Jem's roles in the story. There are two very touching scenes that effectively portray the innocence of children and the injustice adults sometimes do to each other. One is when Atticus is in front of the jail protecting his client and local men come to kill the accused. Scout, Jem and Dill, particular Scout, confront the local men and they ashamedly walk away. In another scene, Scout shows affection to Boo Radley (played by a very young very blonde Robert Duvall in his first role) who is incredibly shy and mostly ignored by the other townsfolk but came out of his shell to help Scout and Jem. While the film really focuses more on Atticus than the book does, I felt like the movie honored the importance of the children as well!
While I liked the book better than the movie, I think the film is quite a masterpiece. Gregory Peck did an amazing job portraying Atticus Finch. It's really a marvelous performance and I'm sure a lot of folks with knowledge of Peck's career will say it's one of his best roles.
Did you watch To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) on the big screen last Thursday? What did you think?
Thank you to Harper Perennial and Fathom Events for the book and a chance to see the movie! Much appreciated.