As a lawyer, I’ve had to learn that people aren’t just good or just bad – Paul Biegler
One of the few things that bugged me about Anatomy Of A Murder was why had Paul taken the case. There were slim chances of winning and there wasn’t any ready cash in it. By the end, we know why. To bring his friend Parnell back into life. And that’s all the suspense there is in Anatomy Of A Murder. Now, if you expect to watch this movie and experience your pulse thickening and your heart beat racing, I have quite effectively destroyed all the chances you had of that, however slim that might have been. The facts are all laid out in the beginning itself . What follows for the next two hours or so is a mind game. And boy, O boy, don’t I love one of those !
Otto Preminger’s Anatomy Of A Murder is about Paul Biegler (James Stewart) who is defending a military who has killed presumably a man who raped his wife.
Do you know about the television debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal in 1968 ? Well, if not, well in short they sort of molded modern television debates and their nature. What struck about those debates was the wit. They had me in splits ! And that is what most struck me while I was watching Anatomy Of A Murder. It is a murder trial, there is a man’s life hanging on the trial, but it wouldn’t hurt to infuse humor into it, would it ? There is a furry of one liners at a torrent pace throughout the movie. This is a strict, to-the-book trial movie. And here there are no people sobbing, witnesses shouting ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ nor are there even openings. Considering how the trial was going, I was all anticipated for the big dramatic stand-off. NOTHING.
Why ? Because this movie is not about what the facts are. They are laid out there and they won’t change. It is about the ever-dominating human factor in justice. How is it that a man’s life hangs in balance of what another person thinks at a point of time ? What is going on in their minds ? I have firmly believed throughout my movie watching experiences that the viewer is assigned a certain duty to play out in the movie. Walk out of one that doesn’t do that. Here, we are not one of the jury members, as some might perceive so. Here, we are one among those faceless crowds that sits behind and watches the drama unfolds. Our thoughts are obviously molding an opinion, no doubt at it whatsoever, but we have no control over the outcome. We are there also trying to figure out, what in God’s name are those 12 individuals thinking ? Are they actually not taking into consideration what the judge discredits ? Or do they have preconceived notions, with the utterances only confirming them or disproving them ?
We never know. It is more questions than answers. It is definitely a movie that an aspiring lawyer should watch. It is never the truth that wins. It is what is sold better as truth that wins. The movie, is as the title quite aptly suggest, an anatomy of a murder. It follows it, it examines it, it ends it and moves on. But, the fact that it leaves me emotionless after 166 minutes perturbs me. Yes, it had amazing portrayals, brilliant script and superb music, and it didn’t take sides, but wasn’t Laura’s promiscuity too much entertained ? And every movie should have an emotional core. One without is like a Tarantino movie without any Samuel Jackson in it. But as the screen fades, I do oddly feel a certain warmth tugging me. It is of Paulie and Parnell’s friendship. I am contented, willing to leave behind a flaw, and admit this is a great movie. O, what a closing ! (No pun intended)
RATING : 9.4 / 10
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