Essay on Dead Man Walking a Film Directed by Tim Robbins

Essay on Dead Man Walking a Film Directed by Tim Robbins

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Dead Man Walking” is a film directed by Tim Robbins, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn in the main roles. The film is based on the book, of the same name, by Sister Helen Prejean. Sister Prejean became a spiritual advisor for criminals on death row and is now known for her strong stance against the death penalty. Two such convicted murderers, Elmo Patrick Sonnier and Robert Willie, are combined into one role, Matthew Poncelet, for this film. The beginning of the film shows Sister Prejean, played by Susan Sarandon, corresponding through the mail with convicted murderer Matthew Poncelet, played by Sean Penn. She eventually meets face-to-face with Poncelet. During the first visit Poncelet asks Sister Prejean to look over his court case and to try to help him to overturn his sentence which Prejean agrees to and obtains the services of a pro bono attorney. During the process of the court appeals, Poncelet and Prejean form a strong bond. Prejean becomes acquainted with Poncelet’s family as well as the families of the victims. She learns of the grief and hardships both families are experiencing due to the crime. Prejean realizes that in counseling the murderer and her naivety in assuming that the victim’s families would not want to see the spiritual counselor of the murderer, she has made the families to feel betrayed. These meetings lead to her understanding and empathy for both sides.
In the beginning of the movie, Poncelet was shown as vulgar, racist, and as showing no remorse for his crimes. As more of his true personality bleeds through, it is easier to see him as less of a monster. His anguish as each court request is denied and the fear he feels makes him seem more human. At the point of the night of the...


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...bodies. Both spread-eagled on their stomachs; the girl nude. Then Poncelet’s form is shown, also spread-eagled but on his back so his half-open lifeless eyes can be seen. The director depicting the similarities in body positions of the victims and the murderer could be construed as an “eye for an eye” type of metaphor; the murderer ended up just as he left his victims.
“Dead Man Walking” is an extremely emotional thought-provoking film. From the emotional impacts of death to the physical repercussions; the viewer is made to feel many emotions throughout the duration of the movie. Strong acting, music, and camera techniques give the viewer each side of the story, emotionally and visually. This movie is shown from all sides and each side can relate to certain scenes. The debate over whether the death penalty is morally right will never be an easy one.

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