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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