To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most important pieces of literature and film in American history. Although the story is well known, the portrayal of Harper Lee’s beloved character’s in Robert Mulligan’s version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” bring an entirely new layer of meaning and appreciation. Analyzing the film version of this story will highlight and emphasize the key meanings that are found primarily in the novel.
The scene begins with an upward angle of the sheriff, it then cuts to an angle pointed downward on Scout. These angles give the effect that we are constantly switching between Scout’s point of view and the two other adults in the room. This type of editing allows for an eye-line match shot which makes it easier to identify which characters are addressing each other. This scene is also edited to cut between each character in the room while Scout tells her story, it always cuts back to her when she addressed her role in the scenario and moves toward Jem sleeping when she describes his actions during the altercation.
The background along with the clothing also help emphasize the importance that Scout holds in this scene, portrayed through her dark clothing in contrast with the white curtains behind her. She is meant to be the focal point throughout her speech, her isolation and being in the center of the screen also magnify this purpose. Even when she moves to a different position, the lighting makes sure to not cast a single shadow on her face or body; almost like she is under a spotlight. The scene then turns to the big reveal of Boo Radley, almost in the same fashion of a horror film revealing what the monster terrorizing the town looks like. Boo Radley has many rumors and fears that surround him, with none of the key characters knowing what he looks like; up until now.
He is first hiding behind the door the entire scene, lurking in the shadows. Scout then recognizes him as the savior of Scout and herself from Mr. Ewell and the sheriff moves the door to unveil Boo. He is at first still trying to hide in the shadow of the door until he is forced to move towards the light and show his face.The upward angle gives the impression as Boo as this ominous presence in the room, that or relationship to him is one of inferiority. This shot makes Boo the absolute focus, with his own spotlight and positioning in the middle of the frame, this isolation lets the viewer know of his importance. When the camera later zooms in on his face, it is to help build the story further and allow the viewer to gage the character’s emotions and acting throughout the scene. Boo is looking towards the only other adults in the room, Atticus Finch and the sheriff, with fear and anticipation. When he finally looks towards Scout, there is another eye-line shot between Boo and Scout; one sees Boo physically relax when interacting with Scout, developing the relationship the two have to the viewer.
This scene is one of the most pivotal points in the entire novel and movie. It was given a horror movie unveiling even though it is apparent that Boo Radley is the most misunderstood characters throughout the novel, this scene alone perpetuating that rumor. RIP Harper Lee.