Crime Film Conventions: Theme and Characters
Crime film is the genre, in which a plot develops on the basis of either committed or imminent crime. The storyline of such films displays the details and features of committing a crime by a protagonist. This genre justifies the actions of the main characters in the film, in the conventional sense called criminal, in favor of their validity. Often, the viewer becomes an accomplice of an action that develops in the film. Actions of the best crime films unfold precisely the time when the bandit gang and criminal organizations were at the peak of their activity in real life. For example, it may be the 1930s, when the picture tells about events in America. The brightest example of such movie is Bonnie and Clyde. The main characters of criminal films are mainly gangsters, violent thugs, gangs, maniacs, as well as those who are pursuing the criminals more often than not they are detectives or representatives of public services like police, FBI, CIA or others. A genre of crime films is closely interwoven with the genre of the detective movies, because the criminals are tend to hide from prosecution authorities. In addition to detectives, the best gangster movies are easily combined with other genres of film like action, drama and even comedies. This means that the onlookers can see a combination of genres. The story is often based on true stories that rely mainly on just facts that occurred in real life. Storylines of such movies tend to justify criminal actions of the principal characters in favor of their necessity and justice. There are major conventions that can be determined for the genre of crime movies. They include the depiction of characters and the main theme that is rendered by the story. The three movies under analysis present the best example of these conventions realized on the basis of movies.
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The first movie under analysis is M presented to the onlookers by Fritz Lang. Panic swept the city, because maniac kills little girls. Police is powerless and all the people start constant searches suspecting everyone in the city. It would seem that Fritz Lang made a simple and unpretentious thriller about a maniac killer. However, what distinguishes the film in a series of such is that it is not primarily a mere statement chronicles of crime, but a real detective story that intertwines with the psychological and social drama (Sorrento 60). Moreover, it shares with blotches of humor when the character Lorre is hamming the front of a mirror or the episode when police reports about finding candy wrappers. As well as some innovative moves, it should be noted that the M is the first sound film, and Lang skillfully used melody from Peer Gynt by Edward Grieg into the narrative. With the help of this invention, the killer is associated with the famous tune, which he whistles the first half hour of the movie, and only after that the viewer is able to see the face of the murderer. It should be noted that Peter Lorre not only perfectly suited for the role by his appearance, but also showed a master class in the episode when his hero was caught. However, under such a simple and terrible synopsis lies a plurality of parallel lines and sensual charges. Girls disappear. Then their bodies are consistently found. Murderer cannot be found. City panics. Parents cannot keep track of their offspring. Finally, the murderer writes anonymous letters to the police and the newspaper, promising new victims.
Various analysts are trying to compile a psychological portrait of a maniac, hoping it would somehow help to catch him. Ordinary citizens, in turn, see the murderer in each random counter. They start suspecting even acquaintances, trying to arrange a lynching over anyone who seemed suspicious. In this mass panic, chaos socio-cultural and other semantic subtexts are revealed. It is interesting to see how helpless the most reliable system becomes before one single person. They are unable to control an ill man, a crazy killer, who makes a danger to the members of the society. Various state agencies are attacking each other, alleging incompetence, that they are not doing enough to catch the monster in human form. In addition to, despite the horror of the events that take place around, Lang ironically reveals the imperfect state of the system, artfully combining the controversy in discussions with offices and in the headquarters of the gangs.
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Based on actual events that have occurred, Lang raises the issue whether a man who took the lives of innocent children deserves the right for life, and who should judge him, and whether he has jurisdiction at all. Crime and punishment are the most controversial questions that are relevant forever. The director of the movie managed to disclose the theme that is so relevant for all crime films – the problems inside the society. He used the real life situation to depict in the movie and put an accent upon the main character that is associated with a thrilling melody and later with a perfect and breathtaking play of the brilliant actor.
The next movie under analysis is Bonnie and Clyde. This is a romantic crime story that is also based on real events and has the initial base of the main characters that build the whole story around their personalities. Every age has its ambiguous hero who later is destined to become almost symbolic representative of his era. Certain social realities and processes of a particular time forced them to commit acts that are not always right and humanistic, which later are destined to become legends and pass a test of different semantic interpretations. They are ranging from the analysis of the reasons, which prompted the action and ending with the consequences in the form of a certain social or cultural heritage. Bonnie and Clyde can probably be called such characters (Leitch 104). It is not for nothing that their names became common ones. It is possible to say that they were a kind of a result of the Great Depression. They have become a symbolic display of the spirit of lawlessness and boundless freedom in social constraints as a result of everyday ordinariness. In that lies the ambiguity and understanding of the logic of their actions, but not always share. The film contributes to romanticizing of deviant lifestyle, which in real life is not as beautiful as it is presented in the movies. Objective reasons, which prompted Bonnie and Clyde to their actions, include hopelessness, lack of money, and other social problems that were common for people during the determined time period (Leitch 106). They started their criminal way with the ordinary childish excitement and lust. As it turned out, that was more than enough to light the fuse and to start doing the things that will be depicted in the history. Final of this story is logical since sooner or later the retribution for their actions has to be carried out, and it would not be attractive in the end of the main characters. Their actions have no excuse, especially when they are not caused by objective reasons. The theme of the story is presented vividly and lets the onlookers to judge the actions of the criminals from the distance of years with the realization of all the characteristic peculiarities of the depicted time period. Crime should be punished and nobody can ever escape it. The brutal and challenging characters as well as the main theme of the story make it an ideal example of the usage of conventions that are characteristic of the crime movies.
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The movie Conversation is another example of professional usage of brilliant character and the leading theme that is rendered in the story. Harry Cole is a true professional of his craft, the best specialist techniques and wiretapping devices on the East Coast. As a consequence, he starts suffering from a developed professional paranoia. He is afraid that somebody bugged him or any of his former clients will want to clean up the spices that know too much. All the processes that happen in his brain leave an imprint on Cole’s relationship with other people. Harry becomes closed, taciturn and suspicious. He receives a new assignment from some big businessman. Moreover, he has to listen to a couple that walk around the town square. Cole begins to suspect that their story would not have a happy ending. He decides to break the rule of not going where he was not asked, and try to save innocent people from violence. But this desire becomes coupled with a constant concern for his personal safety that drives his mind farther into the madness.
At the first glance, the film simply renders a history of the person, who suddenly experiences an awakened sense of injustice and willingness to change something to the better. Nevertheless, Francis Ford Coppola is interested in entirely different aspects. Depriving the picture of even a hint of pathos and not using the mixing with genre canons, the director uses conventional plot for creating a thought about the place of the individual in modern society. He depicts their co-existence and eternal confrontation (Rafter 231). The author sets the story in the epicenter of the tragic fate of the little man living on the banks of the stream of life, away from everyone. Thus appears Harry Cole, mired in the dark, with severe paranoia, and no other character could be better suited for such a thorough study of the author. Impressive final of the movie places a final stroke of his portrait. The story interacts with the audience through simple metaphors, subtle directorial and touching visual effects. Viscous atmosphere and leisurely pace immerse the viewer into a world of the director’s imagination and the character’s feelings. The exact selection of music and cast adds significant influence to the general impression of the movie.
The theme and characters are essential elements of the movies of criminal genre that are also its major conventions. The three movies under analysis present the best examples of these conventions and have distinct role for the general representation of the historical lines and actions that were the basis of the movie stories.