Change is coming

An essay exploring how the beginning and end showed a change in a character for “Gran Torino” by Clint Eastwood

Many people say that old people fear change as they have grown so accustomed to their old ways but in Clint Eastwood’s film ‘Gran Torino’ we can clearly see that this anyone is capable of change. Protagonist Walt Kowalski is a racist war veteran whose cold heart is thawed through his interactions with his Hmong neighbours, inspiring a great change in the way he treats others and himself. Eastwood uses the beginning and ending to highlight this change and teach the viewer important lessons through symbolism, camera angles, inter-cutting and dialogue.

Guns -symbols of violence- make appearances several times in the film and the way in which Walt uses them also changes to reflect his increasingly peaceful character. Walt starts off a belligerent man and the Hmong gang is first acquainted with the other end of his shot gun and a growl of “Get off my lawn” before they actually meet the man himself. Shot with a subjective low angle shot, the audience feels as if Walt is aiming the weapon at them personally and combined with the immense sense of power that the low angle conveys, his violent nature is emphasized. When faced with any signs of conflict in the beginning, Walt does not hesitate to take out a firearm. This can be attributed to his long-term exposure to violence in the Korean War, which also provided him with his weapons. Just before his death at the end, a midshot captures Walt aiming his ‘finger-gun’ at the Hmong gang in a manner similar to when he confronted Sue’s harassers and subsequently pulled out a real gun. From this earlier experience, Eastwood sets the viewer up to believe that Walt will reach for a weapon concealed in his jacket, thus surprising them when his clenched hand later reveals no firearm. Like the audience, the Hmong gang is also deceived and quickly shoot him. According to Walt’s plan, the Hmong gang is taken to prison and therefore cannot trouble the Vang Lors anymore. As Mahatma Gandhi said “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist” and Walt demonstrates this: he lets go of his violent ideals and in doing so, makes peace with his past.

Walt started out a conflicted man but by the end of the film, we see that he has made peace with his conscience. Two extreme close shots of Walt’s Medal of Valour are used -one while sitting in its box in the beginning and one while pinned to Thao’s shirt in the end- to symbolize the discarding of Walt’s guilt. Awarded to him for “killing a scared little gook kid who just wanted to give up”, Walt’s feelings of remorse are ‘boxed’ up like the medal and his sins torment him at the beginning of the film. However, he gives the medal to Thao before he leaves to confront Smokie’s gang; this is symbolic of him letting go of his guilt. When Walt falls to the ground after being shot, Eastwood uses the unnatural angle of a birds eye view to highlight the crucifix position of his body. This reference to the death of Christ connotes atonement for sin, communicating that Walt has redeemed himself through his sacrifice for the Vang Lors. Following his death at the end of the film, the second extreme-close shot of the medal takes place, reinforcing the idea of redemption and reminding us of Walt’s change. Walt’s newfound peace manifests in the non-violent way in which he confronts the Hmong gang, ensuring that Thao would not get involved in the bloodshed and live with the guilt of manslaughter unlike himself. The camera angles and symbolism used in the beginning and end convey to the reader the importance of letting go of the past and not letting it dictate your future.

The beginning and the ending highlight the change in Walt’s willingness to be a father to his own sons. In the opening funeral scene, a close shot of Walt’s sullen expression and perpetual scowl cuts to a midshot of his son Mitch whispering to his brother that “There’s nothing you can do that won’t disappoint the old man”. This gives the viewer the impression that the father-son relationship is strained- an impression which is strengthened in the very next scene where Walt snaps “I need the chairs now, not next week”. Intercutting between wideshots of Mitch and Walt conversing by phone with each other also happens in the beginning, with Mitch asking a cheerful “How’s it going, dad?” before he asks for a favour and Walt promptly hangs up. Interestingly, the ending of the text utilises similar intercutting during the phone call where Walt voluntarily calls Mitch and asks him “How’s everything going?”, followed by a close shot of Mitch’s perplexed expression. These parallels of intercutting and dialogue emphasise how much Walt’s personality has changed. Though he confesses to Father Janovich that “I was never really close to my sons. I didn’t know how”, his father-son bonding with Thao encourages Walt to make that awkward first step in repairing his relationship with his biological sons. The contrast in Walt’s attitude from the beginning to end gives viewers hope that any relationship can be repaired so long as one is willing.

The beginning and the end of ‘Gran Torino’ were crafted skillfully by Clint Eastwood to highlight the important change in Walt’s character. The contrast between the man he was at the beginning and the man he was when he died encourages the viewer not to be afraid of change as it will lead to development of one’s personality.

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necromancing this poor blog
if i treat my children the way i do with this blog, they’re gonna run away from home as soon as their little legs will allow them


English this year is so much harder TT____TT bye bye English award </3 i’ll miss you

Tomorrow, we find out who the head students are and I’m so nervous and worried that I can barely function tbh
I’ve put off preparing for the timed essay in English and Physics electromagnetism common test to control my feels but it just doesn’t feel right to not try my best in preparation.
Lucky me- I get to do Level 2 English in the afternoon of Thursday 13th November after the Level 3 Bio exam QAQ we even have to be supervised in the break to prevent cheating oh dear lord
ok i’m gonna go try and sleep
i’m so nervous i could puke and I’ve cleared my weekends and bought lots of preparation in anticipation of a weekend of moping and eating my feelings
I didn’t realise how badly I wanted head student until I actually got shortlisted
But then, who wants to give up on a dream and goal they’ve worked towards since year 9?

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Change and overcome fear

A character change film analytical essay: “V for Vendetta” directed by James McTeigue

Scared and afraid, we walk around with masks on to hide our true selves. We are not as strong as we make ourselves out to be. Evey Hammond, the female protagonist of James McTeigue’s dystopian film ‘V for Vendetta’ is a character who changes from an anxious, passive girl into a knowledgeable, bold woman who thinks for herself. The catalyst for this change was the fake abduction that V staged to test her mental strength. Through the intricately woven plotline, expert use of film techniques and an abundance of symbols, the audience is able to connect with Evey and learn from her character change.

The Evey in the beginning half of the film is fearful. When faced with any sign of violence, she always hides beneath something, whether it be a bed or a table. Hiding under objects is a subconscious reaction to feeling threatened and wanting to be protected – a characteristic of Evey’s which can be attributed to her unorthodox childhood. Her parents were political activists who opposed the government, despite the threat of persecution.  The threat becomes reality when Evey is abruptly woken from sleep and told to hide under the bed. Both objective views and point-of-view shots are used to show Evey’s mother being beaten and ‘black-bagged’, an act which involves the placing of a black hood over a victim’s head in a manner reminiscent of how Gestapo in World War Two would treat their prisoners. Evey tells V  “I’m sorry I’m not a stronger person. I wish I wasn’t afraid all the time, but I am”. The audience now comprehends the ordeals that have shaped Evey into a fearful being. This quote also serves to foreshadow the morphing of a timid Evey into an assertive Evey.

In the later half, Evey begins to develop into a strong person after facing hardship and finding the inspiring autobiography of a previous prisoner. Following her abduction, she is subjected to torture in order to break her spirit and divulge information about V. An example of this was when her head was forcefully held under water. Her captor proceeds to pull her up and commands her to “Just tell us where he [V] is”. Face defiant, she firmly replies with “I don’t know”. This mid shot can be compared to the mid shot of Evey when she first arrived at the holding facility, where she was whimpering and shaking so hard that she could not respond to the interrogator’s questions. Her emergence from the water is similar to the act of baptism, wherein an imperfect and flawed person is submerged in water briefly before rising out of it as a new creation. Evey’s afflictions teach us that the vicissitudes of life mold and enhance our character, much like how intense heat hardens clay. This knowledge gives us strength to persevere, even in the direst of times.

The concept of ‘rebirth’ is used by McTeigue to emphasise Evey’s change.  A bird’s eye view of Evey in a fetal position channels this concept and the importance of this scene is highlighted by the unnatural angle from which we perceive her. Coupled with her bald head and closed eyes, the viewer is given the impression that Evey is in a womb and waiting to be born again. Evey’s transformation is complete when she tells her captors that she would “rather die behind the chemical sheds” than co-operate. In response to this, her captor tells her “Then you have no fear anymore. You’re completely free”. With this, Evey leaves her cell and slowly walks out of the corridor, only to find herself in V’s hideout. Her exit from the dark-coloured cell and her entry into the warm, soft environment of V’s home is another touch that McTeigue uses to represent Evey leaving the womb and entering a new world. This parallelism serves the purpose of dramatizing Evey’s change and making it a prominent transition.

After her release from captivity, a new Evey stands in the rain on a balcony. “God is in the rain”, she says while looking up at the heavens, quoting the contents of Valerie’s letter. She raises her hands in a V for victory and also as an act of thanks to God. Cross-cutting of both Evey and V’s rebirths follow, with the obvious difference of Evey rising from soothing rain while V rises from the fiery carnage of Larkhill Detention facility. This juxtaposition furthers the religious references by again symbolizing baptism. Water has long been a symbol of healing and life; a contrast to fire’s connotations of destruction and death. For the first time in the film, the horizon is able to be seen without anything obscuring it, contributing to the feel of freedom from fear. Thunder and lightning complete the scene, as white light cuts across the black sky and rumbles of thunder resound. A storm should instill fear, but Evey is afraid no more. These weather elements give this particular scene a powerful quality, reflecting the newfound strength that Evey now possesses and which enables her to complete V’s plan and blow up the houses of Parliament.

We live in constant fear every day. Fear of being unaccepted and lonely. Fear of losing. Fear of humiliation. Fear of sickness and death. Fear of persecution. These phobias can be overcome, though, if we are willing to change. While we are living in a much different society to the one painted in ‘V for Vendetta’, we can still identify with Evey and learn from her bravery in the face of overwhelming fear. A caterpillar is a vulnerable and not very fascinating creature. However, after it ‘dies’ inside of its chrysalis, a beautiful butterfly emerges with wings that carry it to wherever it pleases. Evey has gone through a similar metamorphosis, starting out as timid and weak before evolving into a resolute being. As we have observed, her transfiguration has not come about smoothly; she faced torture, humiliation, paralyzing fear and isolation before she was able to reach her ideal character. This is the crux of what Evey’s character has taught us: when we overcome our fears, we will find strength and confidence.