As alluded too in a blog previous (Goodbye Blockbuster) I like to, in fact love to watch films when I have spare time. Every now and again I stumble across, or am pointed in the direction of, an absolute blinder of a movie which is relevant sociologically and I can’t help but bang on about it. This one in particular really is something speacial. Not only can you watch it for free but you can also read the play upon which it is based. Well I say play, it was actually a teleplay written by Reginald Rose and broadcast live in 1954. It wasn’t until 1957, after numerous stage productions, that ‘Twelve Angry Men’ was transposed onto celluloid film, directed by Sidney Lumet and starring, amongst a dozen or so others, Henry Fonda.
So why is this film sociologically relevant, or indeed more sociologically relevant than most others? Well, the story line centres around a group of twelve men (obviously), who are sitting as juror’s on a first degree murder case involving a young ‘slum kid’ and his farther. Without spoiling the plot and unfolding story, eleven of the twelve jurors return a guilty verdict in the very first show of hands. As, in this case, a unanimous ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ verdict is required, a debate ensuses as to the resonable doubt which may or may not surround the intricacies of the case. This is where the specifically sociologically relevant aspect of the film becomes apparent. The characters of the jury, so convincingly portrayed by the actors in question, represent a diffuse range of social backgrounds and histories which shine through, supplying the meat of the story line during the often heated (almost to boiling point) debate. Likewise, the social characteristics of the key witnesses of the case are called into question and thus exposed, in an intriguing and enlightening fashion.
I guess that trying to explain the sociological relevance of this marvelous piece of film, while also not spoiling the plot too much, leaves a fair old bit to be answered as regards to its sociological relevance. My suggestion is that you watch it, you’ll see what I’m getting at.
A further aspect of ‘Twelve Angry Men’ which I found highly relevant relates more to what sociology offers as an acedemic dicipline. As the film unfolds, and the plot reaches unfathomable depths, the importance of the art of critical thinking becomes ever increasingly apparent. Critical thinking is central to the vast majority of degree courses which are available at any university in the country, and particularly essential to any degree level study of the sciences or humanities. Given that ‘Twelve Angry Men’ is as much as critique of the American judicial system and indeed the death penalty, as it is of popular perceptions of poverty, ethnicity, and violence, the film makes for a truly intriguing and timeless piece of eternally relevant social, political and interpersonal exploration on the back of the essential importance of the art of critical thinking.
Now although this film is black and white, contains no ‘action’ scenes as such and is set in one room for almost its entirety, don’t let this put you off. Give it ten minutes and I promise you will not regret it.
(Big thanks to Pat the house mate for suggesting I watch this).