Thursday, 5 July 2007

The Performance Which Changed My Life

12 Angry Men was ahead of its time. A film which preached tolerance and social responsibility seems incongruous in its 1957 context.

A teenage boy is charged with the murder of his abusive father, and a jury is called to pass judgement. Thanks to the heat of the day, and an important baseball match in the evening, 11 of the 12 jurors call for a guilty verdict; each for their own reasons.

Only one, Juror Number 8, (Henry Fonda) suggests that the boy is innocent; not because it is necessarily true, but because a life should not be judged so quickly and cheaply.

From this moment, No.8 acts as the last bastion for human decency and social conscience; unswayed by the overwhelming prejudice and hatred of the 11 other men. Not only do I wholeheartedly approve of everything that No.8 stands for, but Henry Fonda's performance is close to perfection, and the rest of the cast are fantastic as his opponents.

Henry Fonda's performance was the first I'd seen to promote a liberal and caring viewpoint, particularly in the face of conservative and prejudiced adversity. Growing up in a working class family, yet having a place in a private school lead to conflict; I was surrounded by a number people who seemed to care little about fellow human beings. Juror No.8 inspired me to fight hard against prejudice, stand up for myself and have the courage of my convictions. Popularity only matters when you have respect for the people who like you; and like Henry Fonda, we should all risk being unpopular in order to fight hard for what we believe in.

Whenever anybody calls me a "Guardian reader" I respond with pride that I am. Thanks to the courage that Henry Fonda gave me in his life-changing performance.


Blogger Catherine said...

As a fellow "Guardian reader", I'd like to commend you on this fine post. I've only watched the film once and I was very young at the time, but Fonda's performance in it has stayed with me for years.

8 July 2007 at 16:59


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