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What I liked about the movie: the balance in the presentation of the issue of
the death penalty between left and right (surprising from Tim Robbins). I
also liked the simple Catholic-positive image presented. The last time I
remember Catholics being shown in a positive light revolved around their have
retained the ancient power to exorcise demons.  The most moving thing to me
in the film was the effort of the killer's mother to show his baby pictures
(and generally, the use of baby pictures to elicit pure feeling). My takeaway
was not so much who is right in the death penalty debate [ I don't really
expect much help on my politics one way or the other from Hollywood], but
sheer amazement at how all these cute "babies" end up in a tangled web of
violence: some babies become killers, some victims. Pure fiction stuff:
everyone is "right" from behind their eyes.
 
A thought on the role of women in films.  I read some years ago a book on
horror/slasher films (written by a woman, I've forgotten the title) a theory
that stayed with me.  She said that it isn't so simple that men identify with
the male characters and women with the women.  Her theory was that both men
and women feel (in such films) the terror through the woman. I'd like to hear
more thoughts about this. There are many ways to go with it.  Do men learn to
feel through women generally? A woman friend recently told me she came across
a theory that tried to explain why women live longer than men and generally
survive strokes better.  It attempted to use biology to explain it: that the
fetus starts as female, that biologically the female structure is more
"stable" than the male, more differentiated cellularly (i.e. in the brain).
In crisis, the male is physically weaker, handles stress less well. Dies back
to the feminine, so to speak.
 
Prejean as the "ingenue" of experience, "us" (all of us so to speak). One
victim's mother accuses her of not knowing what it  feels like to lose a
child, because she was a nun. Prejean walks through much of the movie in a
daze, "I am here because he asked me." In that sense, she is the perfect
vehicle for viewers projecting into her, as we stumble through life without a
guidebook (most of us that is). In the movie theatre, we are all ingenues,
all lesser and smaller than the characters up there on the screen having the
big 'real' feelings.
 
Charley Murphy
 
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