Dead Man Walking Reviews
Ce film s'étirait en longueur, j'aurais voulu dire que je l'ai aimé plus que ça étant donné les louanges des critiques mais ce n'est pas le cas...
Dead Man Walking is an emotionally powerful film that explores deep themes of redemption, forgiveness and love that sometimes touches on religious levels. It is both a faithful adaption of the memoirs penned by real life Helen Prejeans in its spirit, and a piece of powerful film on its own merits. The film remains engaging due to the powerful portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean by actress Susan Sarandon and Matthew Poncelet by Sean Penn, as the interaction of these two characters drive the entire plot of the film.
The film chronicles the experiences of the Catholic nun Sister Helen Prejeans and her interactions with the fictional condemned murderer and rapist Matthew Poncelet, who was on death row. While the Poncelet character had been fictional, he nonetheless displays traits and characteristics of the two real-life death row inmates the real life Helen Prejeans had visited as spiritual adviser, carrying on the spirit of the book. However, one flaw I found with this film would be the false hope scenarios introduced that suggests that Poncelet could live, these false hope scenarios such as pardons and appeals appeared fairly weak and it was very obvious that Poncelet was going to die no matter what.
These two characters and their interactions were the focus of the entire film, so it was essential that the characters are well-written and complex, a feat Robbins thankfully achieved spectacularly. Helen's character, despite having no prior experience with such matters, and despite her celibacy keeping her from deeply understanding men, stayed strong throughout the film in her duties to Poncelet despite the numerous emotional turmoil she faced as well as discouragement from her own community and family. She was not timid or submissive to Poncelet, and heeded the advice of Chaplain Farley, who warned the manipulative nature of death row convicts before Helen even met Poncelet. Farley's warnings proved correct, as Poncelet appeared to be deceptive, disrespectful, rude, sexist, racist and generally unlikeable, but with just enough trinkets of humanity portrayed that the audience could still sympathize with him. In fact, Poncelet's deception sometimes proved so masterful in his interactions with Prejeans that some audience may be inclined to take his side in the very beginning, until cracks show in his facade and the audience is reminded of his true motives, before he genuinely finds his own humanity at the very end. In fact, this entire film could be a subverted version of "Beauty and the Beast" where Prejeans slowly makes the monster Poncelet more and more human with her unconditional love in a religious and spiritual sense.
In addition, the film takes an arguably better approach than the book in that the themes of redemption and forgiveness are the focus of the film, while the debate regarding capital punishment took a backseat, a stark contrast to the book. In fact, the film does not take any particularly stance on any side of the debate, showing strong arguments for both and leaving it up to the audience's own interpretation. For example, the film implied that Poncelet only learned to seek forgiveness and take responsibility because of his impending death, and that perhaps if he was only given a life sentence instead, that all the compassion and love from Helen Prejeans wouldn't be able to save his soul. The book, on the other hand, took a strong stance against the death sentence, evident in the real life Helen Prejean forming her own organization for that cause.
As such, this film stirs powerful emotions in the audience, humanizes the most despicable person society would normally find, and provides a great allegory to the famous "Beauty and the Beast" narrative. In addition, the film respects the audience's intelligence, offering no clear stances on the debate surrounding the death penalty, while suggesting strong arguments for both sides.
Dead man walking was adapt from a true story between a nun and a dead row. The plot is attractive because it create a closer touch with a prisoner rather than the victims, which is quite different from other movies. However, dead man walking didn't create a very kind prisoner, but instead, it shows a young guy with bad mood and social prejudice, lying to escape from being executed. Sister Helen, who abject to dead penalty, plays a very important role here, she is not only connect with Poncelet but also help connect audience with Poncelet. She uncover the truth of young couple's dead step by step, using her kindness and sincere heart to finally touch Poncelet and audiences.
Great movie is good at dealing with details and make everything looks like real. At the beginning of the movie, camera didn't firstly shot the main character Helen, but the kids playing around. After a few shot about kids, Helen walk through the long take lens, holding things. The nature beginning is well-design to prevent stiff. One more "long take" happen when Helen listen to one of the victim's father talking about his son, "All the memories get sealed in a place, sealed like a shrine." When the camera move away twice from two characters, accompany with two "sealed", audiences can easily follow characters' feeling without shooting characters' face to express emotions. What's more, when Helen sit in the car, thinking about whether Poncelet is a murder or not, horizontal panning were used to shot from animal that Helen really see and the commit process that might happened in Poncelet, to children's pure face (using POV here), and finally to real scene in graveyard. Contact skills were used here, young couple were cruelly killed like an animal, even if Poncelet might be a cruel murder, he has have a pure eyes and heart when he was a young boy. But what face to Poncelet is dead. I can see Helen feels ambivalent. On one side, she don't want any killing happen. On the other side, she received the sorrow from victim's family, the sharp-eyed from others and the difficulty of appealing for Poncelet.
Most of the scenes in dead man walking are dialogues between Helen and Poncelet. It should be very easy for audiences to feel boring, but this narrative film has a strong theme of murder to absorb attentions, and at the same time organize the story by gradually releasing the clues and using repetition of murder scenes to stimulate audiences' vision. A good movie must have great present in Mise-en-scene, which refers to lighting, costumes, sets, and quality of the acting. Although most of the dialogues appeared in prison, the background lighting is different between Helen and Poncelet, Helen wear white suite, with relatively dark background lighting while Poncelet usually wear deep dark clothes with relatively bright background lighting. In such arrangement, audiences receive visual balance. Sister Helen is casted by Susan Sarandon, a famous actress that made character Helen become vivid. She even refuse to be the normal nun that make people feel boring. I remember a scene that when there is only 20 minutes left for Poncelet, Helen sing the hymn for Poncelet, she is facing the sunshine, tears down her face, I thought she already meet god, and pray to reduce Poncelet's painful. I think that is the most touchable scenes in this movie.
Dead man walking object to dead penalty, however, just like what shows in the movie, politics insist: "I would rather see him (Poncelect) fry." Helen's action received against from her family, from her job, and from victims' family. This controversial topic made the movie become more meaningful. It represent two different view from society and deserve to thinking about.
Sister Helen enters Matthew Poncelet's life through letters he sent to her. Matt is on death row for a double murder-rape he was convicted of. He didn't act alone, his partner got life in prison. Matt is not too forthcoming to Helen, but as it gets closer to his death, Helen tries to get him to come to grips with what he's done and to ask for forgiveness.
The acting of Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn is amazing and their chemistry is off the charts. Both give extremely emotional and powerful performances as to completely different people who were brought together through tragedy.
What makes this movie so great is that it recognizes both sides of the debate on capital punishment. It doesn't give one side and make the audience try to agree with it. Instead it allows the conflicting feelings to trigger the emotional responses. A masterpiece from Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.