Within five minutes, the film A Time to Kill has framed the severity of racism during the 1980’s. Filmmakers uncover how some white Americans would leave with twisted contentment after roaming recklessly within the territory of defenseless African Americans, ripping them away from their property, personal value, and dignity. A girl is brutally treated, and two men who beat her drives away in laughers. While showing the occurrence of the tragic, filmmakers adeptly invokes the audience’s real cognitive and emotional empathy.
The intro of the film is valuable to the film in terms that it immediately grabs the audience’s attention, shows the two opposing standpoints, and describes a brutal tradition in the South during the 1980’s. In order to gear the audience’s empathy towards the African Americans, filmmakers present various conflicts between the two White intruders and the African American community, with the African Americans quietly bears all of the disrespect and the two White men getting more tyrannical each conflict. The filmmakers also purposely ignore mentioning the names of the men to keep them under-distinguished, while Tonya well characterized, to enable the viewers to be more readily sympathize with Tonya.
First, we see two boorish young men yells into a peaceful African American neighborhood and disturbs it as if it is an abandoned playground. They throw beer bottles at random strangers, spits at them, and makes a mess in their convenient stores. This leaves the audience in disgust of the two white Americans and pity for the African Americans who didn’t even lift a finger to defend themselves. Which gears the audience’s favor towards the African American community right away, and serve as a stepping stone for the audience’s elevated sympathetic response for the ten years old Tonya’s tragic.
Due to the constant foreshadow, the viewer’s heart starts to clench when Tonya walks in the woods with her groceries, alone. As she makes a kind gesture of stepping to the side to allow the car of the two White men to pass by. The viewers are likely to distinguish her as a kind yet vulnerable individual and desires to protect her from the two nameless White men coming up right behind. Within expectation, not a minute have passed when Tonya’s heart-piercing scream fills up the audience’s ears. Not only the filmmakers push the event to occur in a sudden, the event also takes the perspective of the young Tonya. The viewers are to observe exactly what thrusts into Tonya’s fearful eyes. The cam shakes, details such as the rustling rope, stiff fingertips, and cries for daddy places the viewer in physical and emotional sync with Tonya, wishing to be the daddy she’s crying for, resist with Tonya and take her away from the torture hurriedly. Soon, Tonya fell silent, the audiences can only hear her being dragged across the dirt. “What happened? Is she still alive?” Not being able to see Tonya’s face throughout the scene allows the views to exercise their imagination to maximum capacity, inserting their own face and pain to fulfill the image for Tonya. Thus taking Tonya’s perspective and peril personally.
Tonya’s tragic not only play the role of setting initiative for the future plots, it also remains behind the viewer’s thoughts throughout the rest of the movie desiring justice to be served for Tonya. It can be said that the viewer’s empathy with Tonya is not only real but also sets the cornerstone for all future empathetic responses that viewers will fell for the discrimination experiences that African Americans carry, while justifying internally for any resistances that African Americans enact.
A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Brenda Fricker, Oliver Platt. 1996. DVD.