Saturday, March 8, 2008

12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men; Drama, USA, 1957; D: Sidney Lumet, S: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, John Fiedler, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Joseph Sweeney

An 18-year old kid of Puertorican heritage is accused in front of a trial of killing his father with a knife. The 12 jury members get the assignment to decide whether the kid is guilty or not. 11 members pronounce him as guilty, except for one of them, no. 8, who thinks he is innocent because the evidence is suspicious. At first, everyone criticize him, especially the nervous no. 3, but no. 8 is persistent on his theory that the eyewitnesses couldn't have recognized the kid because it was night. Little by little, other members also change their account into "not guilty". In the end, only no. 3 stays with his decision, but in the end also changes his mind.

Nominated for 3 Oscars (best motion picture, director, screenplay) and 4 Golden Globes (best motion picture - drama, director, actors Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb) and winner of a BAFTA (best actor Henry Fonda), court drama "12 Angry Men" is considered to be the best film from Sidney Lumet and generally one of the best films of all times. The whole story is extremely static, a 'kammerspiel' practically unfolding inside just one room, the jury room, consisting only out of dialogues and heated debates between the 12 nameless jury members, but once the viewers get hooked by their discussions the film ends up somehow fascinating and brilliant thanks to precise directing. Especially successful were subtly planted little messages about different perceptions of one event, the inability of people to agree upon one truth, the creation of an opinion based on prejudice or how some individuals become aggressive towards the ones who don't agree with their opinion and even take their little flaws as a pretext to mock them. One of the strongest scenes is the one where no. 8 questions his colleague if he can remember what he did yesterday, and then the day before that, and the day before that, and the day before that, until no. 3 cynically adds: "When are you going to get to 1912?" or when no. 10 is obviously influenced by his racist views regarding the accused Hispanic kid: "I don't understand you people! I mean all these picky little points you keep bringing up. They don't mean nothing."


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