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Friday, July 14, 2006

A brief interlude

I was going to blog about the Called to Lead conference I am attending this weekend, but I feel called to discuss something else. The issue is this...I think I need to spend some time thinking about what I learned today, and perhaps then I can present it in a more informative and thoughtful manner. In the meantime, I'm going to talk about one of my favorite movies.

The Green Mile, by Stephen King

Of course, the book is better, but I have absolutely ZERO complaints about the movie.

I read somewhere that Stephen King can actually be considered to be one of the great American writers due to his ability to capture a time period in our history in such a way that it provides a snapshot. We understand the picture and those who lived in those time periods find the descriptions accurate.

That said, let's talk about my subject. I read this book in college, and loved it, and when the movie came out, I stood in line to see it.

For those who don't know the storyline or perhaps have been scared away thinking it's a horror assured, it is not a horror. Parts are horrible, yes, and that is because they show a bit of truth about the lives we live and the attitudes expressed...and when we face those attitudes in full color, the only correct response is to be horrified.

The story takes place on death row and features a very special inmate...a man given a special gift from God, one he takes seriously, and because of where this gift lead him, he is condemned for a crime he did not committ. And we went as a lamb to the slaughter.

This movie does not make apologies for or attempt to excuse the crimes committed by the death row inmates. It does not discuss the moral implications of the death penalty, but only accepts the reality in this place as a foregone conclusion, one we must accept in order to become one with the plot and identify with the main character.

The people who work on "the Mile", the term for Block E, or death row, are filled with compassion and walk each day carrying the weight of what they do for a living and we see them as people; as good men forced to deal with reality and still carrying on.

The movie does not discuss religion, but there is no question of God or His existance. There is no question about the reality of consequences, for their jobs are all about consequences.

There is a point in the movie where Percy, the guy who causes all the problems (where is a story without an active antagonist?) attends his first execution. Afterwards, he is alone with the body and he makes snide remarks towards the deceased man, and is caught in the act.

One of the guards snatches him away from the corpse and demans that Percy let him be, stating, "He's paid what he owed; he's square with the house again!"

This sums up one of the issues I love about this movie...all of the characters have their dignity and their humanity. Even approaching and after the completion of the state-ordered death, they are treated with respect.

There is a point in the movie which never fails to make me cry; the execution of Delacroix, the botched execution. Those who have seen the movie know what I'm talking about...we almost must watch, for the brutality of capital punishment is addressed here; the inhumanity and the reality that once the switch is thrown, mercy is gone...the only mercy is to keep going and face the consequences. It is then that the irony of the comments of the witnesses is realized and even they cannnot stomach the reality of what they wished for upon learning of the murders by this very man of their loved ones.

And then the main character...the protagonist. A gift from God, a man with little intelligence, but a large, humble heart and healing hands. Religion is never discussed, although we get the impression of Christianity given the context of the movie, and even Catholicism, in the case of one lady who is healed by this man.

It comes to the fact that this gift of God must be executed, and those who understand who and what he is, and realize his innocence and condemnation are faced with a moral dilemma...proceed with this evil of executing an innnocent lamb...or do their jobs? And so the decision is given to the protagonist, and he responds in the only way he can.

I lvoe this meets issues head-on without being political or partisan; it addresses God without being religious yet not wavering in faith or drawing any doubt about our Creator. THe attitudes, expressions, background, and reality of the time is described inerringly (seemlingly for one who was born in the 70's), and we are thus drawn into this story and when it ends, if we have not questioned certain issues surrounding the death penalty...we do now.

Stephen King did not set out to make a political commentary; he only sought to tell a good story and in this he has succeeded. This is one of his best works and I highly recommend this book especially for those who think that King is all about the horror genre...he may actually surprise you.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your post Adore. We watch The Stand every year also--at least once sometimes twice. That is a battle btweeen good and evil in it's very purest form. Steven King is an extremely complex writer and really I wonder about him personally. He has the ability to obviously understand good and evil --write about it wonderfully but I don't think he personally adheres to any sort of belief in God. He is an enigma. I also love the book Insomnia and I wonder if it will ever be a movie...In a strange way some of these stories give me hope---like in the end people really do know good and evil--even people who don't have a faith. I don't get that hope from the media--but seeing these stories by a this writer---I am so puzzled by how he can "get it".

Adoro said...

Thanks for you comment, Therese.

I think you hit the nail on the head....King is a complex person, and I don't think we'll ever understand what goes on in his head.

I have to wonder, sometimes, if interiorly, he understands the disconnect between some of his work and the deeper, better books. Maybe he is "searching" and works out some of these issues in his stories.

Speaking as an aspiring writer myself, this is how I sometimes "process" things.

In any case, The Stand is another great one and they did a good job on that movie also...stayed very close to the book. Great job doing the casting also.

That's another book I"ve been meaning to re-read again (as though I haven't read it at least 5 times already...)