It was the title that prevented me from watching this movie for all those years: Twelve Angry Men
. I could only think of boring adventures by pseudo-heroic action figures. At one point I bothered researching the movie and realised that it might actually be interesting. Twelve jurors are about to file an 18-year-old Mexican-American, guilty of murdering his father. When one juror questions the decision, he opens up a discussion and in its course each juror is confronted with his preconceptions and prejudices.
However when I suggested my husband to watch the movie together, he gave me a painful look, a look generally given when you’ve listened to your favourite song a little too often and you are just about on the edge of disliking it for the rest of your life. When I then finally watched the 1957 version of the movie – alone – he ended up sitting next to me. “12 Angry Men” can be watched over and over again. Why is that?
At times, movies were understood as another form of storytelling, such as a book, poem or picture would do. Embroidered and enriched with symbols and metaphors, every time you watch it, you would dive deeper and discover more of the movie’s secret messages.
I remember watching the 1979-movie adaptation of the book “Woyzeck” by Georg Büchner in school together with our drama-teacher. He would stop every five minutes and ask us to analyse the scene. First annoyed by these ever-chronic-interruptions, we would find it more and more fun discovering the hidden symbols in a scene. I do even recall a small bug that reappeared again and again throughout the movie and our joy whenever we’d encounter it.
I was amazed by this approach on watching (and making) movies. Until then, movies, to me, were representatives of a more simplistic art, taking away the freedom of interpretation, the imagination, dictating the speed, the colours and images. Whereas books would challenge my mind, I felt movies were limiting me. So I found it interesting how “Woyzeck” would give back power to its audience. The power to make more of the movie and the freedom to stay on the surface, if you like.
Ever since, I found independent cinema more entertaining than mainstream/Hollywood movies, which made me feel exploited, dismissed, not taken seriously and even intellectually insulted. Watching “12 Angry Men” reminded me of “Woyzeck” and of the thoughts I had back then.
The last time I really felt both challenged and entertained by a movie was “Incendies” by Denis Villeneuve. “Incendies” is a devastating fiction-drama (“with no historical value” as the director says) about a pair of siblings who undertake “a journey to an unnamed, sectarian-violence-riddled Middle Eastern country in order to fulfil their late mother’s final request.” In a unique way, this film manages to explore symbolically the mysteries of a vicious cycle. You don’t know where evil started and you don’t know where it will end. You don’t even really know how to stop it. And the deeper you dig, the more complex it gets. You stumble upon more holes and more subterranean passageways that again lead to more holes and more subterranean passageways, leading seemingly to the infinite. A vicious cycle.
“Incendies” is worth watching twice, even three times or more – for those who see more than the obvious.
I find the following scene – which is the opening scene of the movie – very intriguing. Especially if you watch it again, after having watched the movie. Radio Head!