Sling Blade Essay, Research Paper
Film directed by and screen play by Billy Bob Thornton.
Sling Blade s main theme is the redemption of Karl s lost childhood. Karl Childer s overly religious parents believed he was a punishment from God. They severely abused him, treated him like an animal, and forced him to live in a shed in solitude. Everyone in town picked on him and called him names. He was seen as a retard or slower than others. He had little to call his own. His only possessions were a Bible and several books on Christmas and carpentry. Karl was taught the Bible as a child, but it wasn t really the Bible. The stories they told him were not in the Bible. His parents had made up their own stories and had led him astray on the rights and wrongs of life.
When Karl was 12 years old interrupted what he believed to be the raping of his mother. He took charge and killed the man with a sling blade . He than found out his mother had wanted it so he killed her too. When he killed his mother and her lover he thought he was doing the right thing. Karl believed that if you have to sacrifice to do the right thing than you should do it. Karl was locked away in a nut house for the next 25 years for rehabilitation and correction.
After Karl s release he quickly made a new friend, Frank. The young boy accepted Karl with out question because he seemed to be more childlike than man. The two become soul mates. Karl related to Frank through his childlike manner as well as his parental setup. Frank s mother was a widow dating an alcoholic, abusive man, Doyle. Karl saw himself in Frank and decided to watch over him. The parallelism between the two characters was shown throughout the movie. The love they shared will save them. The boys faced their troubles on a simple level. They avoided the complications of adult views and judgments.
Karl had read the Bible and believed he knew the difference between right and wrong, but was faced with the problem of protecting Frank from a painful future with Doyle. Karl knew that Doyle would manage to poison Frank s life, or worse, just as Karl s parents did to him. He tried to reconcile his own simple moral code with everything he had been taught about right and wrong, and must decide whether to stand by and watch, or step in to protect the child. He decided to rescue his best friend, Frank, from his destiny. He attacked Doyle with two chops of his switchblade.
Through a deadly crime, Karl freed his young friend from a life of pain and despair, only to end up back where he began at the nut house . The choice of right or wrong seemed to make good and evil equal.
The main point of Sling Blade was to convey the message that sometimes wrong can be right. Symbolically, killing with the switchblade represents for cutting away the troubles that get in the way. Sling Blade was a subjective film. It seduces the audience to emphasize with Frank and Karl and think the way the director wants.
The first element I found that supported the theme was the script. The actors dialogues shaped the characters roles. Karl adopted a new dialect. He picked up a backwoods, disturbed, monotone, punctuated by a throaty um-hmmm . Karl s dialogue showed that he spoke in a simple way. He avoided complicated, fancy language. He spoke like a child, slow and easy, while the others in the movie indicated more education through their speaking. Karl explained the way he was treated as a child, his love for Frank, and his fear of Doyle. His moments of silence revealed his reflection, his caged up behavior, and his childlike manner. Karl s words shaped him as gentle and to the point. Karl told Frank s mamma she s good for Frank. He let people know their worth. At the end Karl stated, the world was too big . He couldn t deal with the world on his own. He needed the support and love of a family.
The other characters scripts related to Karl s redemption, too. Doyle s script reminded Karl of his father. Doyle often called Karl a retard and his father did the same. Linda s script reminded Karl of the wonderful mother he never had. She told him she appreciated him and was glad he was staying with them. Frank s script dealt with his friendship with Karl. They talked about football, Doyle, and other childhood worries. He allowed Karl to be a child again.
The sound also supported the theme. In the beginning the music was low and turned into the sound of a heartbeat. It expressed the beat of life going on and on. After Karl was released, upbeat music began in the background to show he s free. Karl felt lost so he returned to the hospital with sad, slow piano music. Towards the end of the movie an electric guitar played to show Karl was electrified or confused. He was trying to decide whether or not to kill Doyle. He felt he needed to do it, but wasn t sure if he had the right. The music got louder and faster as he approached the house, but slowed down as he entered and sat down on the couch. The music was very dull while the men were talking and stopped abruptly at the murder. At the end of the movie calming harp music played as Karl looks out the window of the nut house towards heaven. He believed he made the right decision. He is guiltless and happy because he was able to catch a glimpse of what childhood really is. Throughout the movie the music sets the mood for the scenes.
The acting also affected Karl s redemption. Karl s uneducated speech showed his uneducated self. Uncertainty around strangers was displayed by his weird behaviors. He rubbed his hands repetitively, looked down, had a hunched posture, and repeated um-hmmm frequently. Thornton played the roll of a slow guy well. Doyle s role as the abusive boyfriend was expressed well through his actions. His drinking, yelling, and vulgarities placed Karl back in time. His father was the same as Doyle. One acting scene that affected the redemption theme was when the boys said, I love you to each other. The love Frank gave Karl renewed what he missed out on his childhood. He believed that message was better and worth more than anything he d ever had. They hugged each other to end the scene.
The lighting/photography played a role too. In the first scene they set Karl in a room with one lamp on. The focus was on him while he s explaining his childhood. The other major scene was when Karl was making the decision to go after Doyle. The camera moved from location to location as he proceeded to the killing. He first walked into the sunset. Here they shot him from behind showing he s off to conquer. Next they showed him standing in the dark with one street lamp casting shadows across him. These shadows showed he was about to come out of the dark with his decision. Then he was shown at the pond with the moon s reflection of the pond bouncing off his face. Here Karl was contemplating the decision. He than was shown sharpening the blade. Shadows were once again cast over him. Here he was taking action, with a little bit of questioning. The shadows showed him finding out what should be done and how to redeem his childhood. The lighting was regular when he decided to kill Doyle. Afterwards they shifted from the murder to the nut house by blackening the screen. This showed closure. Karl decided to give up his freedom to save Frank s childhood.
Sling Blade effected me mentally as well as emotionally. Mentally the film raised questions of right and wrong that were never resolved. In the case of an abusive parent or significant other is it right to take their life to prevent danger of losing your life? I don t understand why Linda stuck around. Doyle doesn t provide anything for her family. All he does is endanger Frank mentally and physically. It shouldn t have taken a retard to get rid of Doyle. She should have gotten rid of him in a calmer fashion. That way Karl would be a free man enjoying life on the outside with Frank. The scene that affected me the most emotionally was where Karl and the little boy tell each other I love you and than hugged their goodbyes. I was also touched by the way Karl protected Frank and Linda. He made sure they were safe before he killed Doyle.
I thought Sling Blade was written and filmed well. It did get slow in parts, but overall it kept my attention. I picked up on minute details that on a regular basis I wouldn t have. This paper made me see the underlying aspects such as the music, lighting, and script. It made me pay attention to what the characters were saying and how they were relating. I now look at film in a new light. I don t just watch the surface. I dig deeper and watch for everything.