Power Of Visual Imagery Essay, Research Paper
The Power of Visual Imagery
The film Dead Man Walking successfully uses a variety of effective imagery techniques to draw powerful emotions from its viewers. Much of the films success is due to the director Tim Robbins as well as the cast. Before seeing the film Dead Man Walking, I never looked at the actual people involved in the process of capital punishment. I looked at the issue itself and not the people who are part of capital punishment. Robbins successfully personifies the issue of capital punishment and helps to give a balanced view of the issue. This balance is achieved in a variety of visual imagery techniques including framing, point of view, flashbacks and particularly emotional or effective scenes.
The first imagery technique that I would like to discuss is framing. There are many scenes throughout the film that utilize close ups. For instance, there is a close up of Helen holding the bars with her face pressed against them. As the time for Poncelet’s execution nears, the camera zooms in on the clock. This is a very dramatic way to signify that the end for Poncelet is near. Most people don’t actually realize that the time before a death row inmate is to be executed can be very hard on the inmate.
Point of view also plays a part in the effectiveness of the film. It is especially effective in creating balance in this film. Poncelet is always seen by Helen through bars or some type of barrier. Helen is seen by Poncelet in the same way. I believe that this was an intentional move by Robbins. It is almost as if it is showing viewers the line between good and evil. Near the end of the film, right before Poncelet is to be executed, he says his last words in a crucifix like position. However, the next scene is Hope and Walter’s bodies being found in a crucifix like position. Each of the scenes balance the others out.
Out of all of the visual imagery techniques used, the one that pulled on my heart strings the most was flashbacks. Not only do they show flashbacks of Poncelet and the murders, they show flashbacks of Helen when she was younger. There are scenes of Helen becoming a nun. But it is my belief that the flashback of Helen beating an animal was used to create balance when comparing her to Poncelet. It may have been used to show that even really good people can make mistakes and achieve redemption. The flashbacks of the murder appear to be very well thought out and planned by Robbins. In the beginning, the flashbacks of the murder are very short. As the movie progresses, the flashbacks get longer and longer. These flashbacks are seen in black and white. At the end of the movie, as Poncelet is being put to death, the flashbacks get even longer and they are shown in color. This was an effective move on Robbins part because it helps to create strong emotions from the viewers. These flashbacks are a very effective tool to create the personification of the issue. The issues of Helen compared to Poncelet achieved a sense of balance between the characters.
There were a great deal of especially effective scenes throughout the film Dead Man Walking which helped to personify the issue of capital punishment. These scenes were very intense. Many of them were dealing with the parents of the victims. In the parents homes, they often told stories of the childrens past, their last words to their children, and photographs of their children. For instance, Hope’s mom tells the story of her last words to Hope. She talks about how the last words that she said to her daughter were about something as simple as the hem of a dress. This creates a sense of these people as being normal, or just like one of us. As Poncelet nears his execution, he asks Helen to sing to him. This is a very emotional moment in which both of the characters are in tears. The very end of the film was incredibly emotional. From the guard saying “Dead Man Walking,” until Poncelet is dead, is highly intense. As Poncelet is being injected, he reaches his hand out to Helen and she in turn reaches her hand out to him. All of these scenes are highly emotional and highly effective in personalizing the issue of capital punishment.
The were several scenes in which I found a great deal of balance in the film. At one point in the film, Poncelet gives an interview in which he makes a variety of racist and biased comments. Later in the film, Poncelet is on the phone and crying to his mother. The strongest point that achieves balance in this film is the portrayals of the families involved. I felt that these families were the ultimate in the personification of the death penalty. Dead Man Walking gives us an intimate portrayal of how each family has to deal with the murder that has taken place. Before watching this film, it never occurred to me that the family of the convict would be effected that strongly. I believe that Robbins was trying to show that the horrors of murder are no different than the horrors of execution because now another family will have to suffer.
Before watching the film Dead Man Walking, it never occurred to me to see the death penalty for anything more than a person being punished for a crime. It was this films incredible use of framing, point of view, flashbacks and the use of especially effective scenes that allowed me to open my mind and see that there is a large group of people who are affected by the death of a person on death row. I believe that Robbins created a sense of balance in the issue, and was careful not to choose sides. I believe that his intent was to make people realize that there are a lot of people involved, on both sides of the issue. He has caused me to reverse my prior beliefs and see that the death of someone is wrong, no matter who does it. This film proves that the use of visual imagery can be a very effective tool to help viewers emotionally relate to a particular issue.