Analysis Of Beloved Essay, Research Paper
The film Beloved, an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Toni Morrison of the same title, portrays the life of a slave and provides a realistic look at the horrors of slavery and the effect that it has on an African American that has lived through such an experience. Sethe, a former slave (played by Oprah Winfrey), lives in a house with, what remains of her four children, Denver (Kimberly Elise), her daughter. They are ostracized by their community for what at first seems to be because they have a rather violent apparition inhabiting their house. This spirit has brutally harmed their dog and driven Sethe s two sons from her home. The activities of the spirit calm after the arrival of Paul D (Danny Glover), an old friend of Sethe. He, also a former slave, is from the same plantation as Sethe. Sweet Home they call it. Even though Paul D was just passing by, his visit turns into an extended stay as he provides comforting, company, companionship and sexual fulfillment for Sethe at this time. They begin to have the shaky makings of a something that resembles a family until the arrival of Beloved (Thandie Newton).
One day on their way back from a carnival they encounter a stranger propped up rather awkwardly against a tree stump outside the front porch of the house. It is a young woman dressed in Victorian black that at first glance seems to be lifeless. Denver takes her in and she and Sethe are immediately accepting of her. Paul D on the other hand has his reservations. She speaks in broken sentences, as would a toddler and her movements are much the same, like she has not developed any motor skills.
The film takes place in 1873 but it is frequently noted and criticized for its non-linear time line. Called a purposefully confusing and unnecessary device, (Movie Guide) it alternates between the present and flashbacks from Sethe s memory of 1855 and the time when she was escaping from bondage. The flashbacks are fragmented and scattered throughout the movie but they tell the story of Sethe s experience and help unravel the underlying mystery of who Beloved is and where she came from. The complexity is not simply a stylistic device; it is built out of Sethe s memories, and the ones at the core are so painful that her mind circles them warily, afraid to touch. Sethe s life has not been a linear story, but a buildup to an event of unimaginable horror, and a long, sad unwinding afterward, (Ebert).
In the beginning of the movie we see a gruesome scene that takes place in Sethe s house where a dog is being thrown around the room and against the wall causing it s eyeballs to come out of its head. I feel that this scene is misleading with respect to what the movie is really about. It is not a genre ghost story but a work that uses the supernatural to touch on deep feelings, (Ebert). Sethe s deep dark past has haunted her, her home, and her family for the past 18 years and has now manifested itself in the form of Beloved.
When Sethe had escaped from Sweet Home and the wrath of School Teacher her owner, she walked miles barefoot and pregnant with her fourth child until she reached Ohio. She then tasted twenty-eight sweet days of freedom. However on the twenty-ninth day she saw that freedom about to be snatched away from her by the same people that had oppressed her before. It was her hatred and fear of slavery and her deep love for her family that caused her to attempt to free her children, determined to protect them from having to suffer the pain and torments of slavery. She only successfully kills one of them, her second youngest, by cutting her neck with a hacksaw. The whole graphic bloody scene was very powerful and moving. It showed that the extent that one would go to in order to be free had no limit. In Sethe s mind her actions were justified by love. She did what she had to do to keep her children from the life that she lived. In the eyes of the law however it was not seen a murder, simply destruction of property since that s all slaves were considered to be. As a result of her actions the seemingly self-righteous community looked down upon her.
Paul D is an important character in Beloved as much as any other especially since the main characters are basically limited to four. Some think that he is some kind of savior when he comes into Sethe s life because he not only awakens her spirit but also, quells the malicious ghost of her home. But if you really look at this character all he does for most of the movie is want to have sex. The first night he s there they spend the night together. Then there s a scene where he s taking a bath when Sethe enters the room. Despite the fact that Denver and Beloved will be following soon behind her, Paul D proceeds to attempt to coerce Sethe into a little foreplay. Even though I haven t read the book I d like to believe that this character had more significance. Perhaps on a more metaphoric level his actions are justified, but as it stands I found them to be unappealing and unnecessary.
Beloved, like most movies, received mixed reviews. The worst, I found came from Movie Guide when they said that Beloved is one of the worst movies of the year. Only the acting, set design and costuming pushes it above a poor rating. I find this to be extremely harsh for a movie as profound as Beloved. It wasn t the best movie I ve ever seen but it got high praises from well-known movie critics like Roger Ebert and various others. The length of the film was commented on quite often regardless of the rating. I personally found it to be lengthy at 172 minutes. Although the content of the story was good, it wasn t enough to fill the amount of time the movie lasted. The film had a tendency to drag at certain points. I found myself frequently checking my watch and wondering when something more exciting was going to happen. After the first twenty minutes there really was nothing to keep me interested other than my desire of wanting to know what the movie was about.
This is definitely a film for people who have read the book. There are a lot of things that don t make sense, are left unresolved or unexplained that even if you see it a second time you still won t be able to get the full impact that, I believe, the movie is intended to have. For instance, Readers of the book will know what is really happening, where Beloved’s “retardation” comes from, and why she behaves the way she does towards Paul. If you haven’t read the book, you will never understand, (Movie Habit).
Despite the length and not completely understanding what was going on, I still enjoyed Beloved. But, like so many books that have been made into movies, they have to be watered down to fit within a reasonable time. From what I gather, Beloved is one of those books. It is so full of symbolism and metaphors that even though it is obvious the movie attempt to capture these aspects they are easily overlooked and lost in the cinematography and confusing story line. This would explain why a story that wins a Pulitzer Prize as a novel falls short of obtaining an Oscar once it crosses that line into the theaters.
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