Dead Man Walking


Look at you. Death is looking down your neck, and you're playing your little male come-on games.

From Dead Man Walking, 1995

Dead Man Walking is a powerful and compelling movie which centers around a convicted rapist and murderer Matthew Poncelet and Sister Helen Prejean both portrayed by Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon respectively. Both coming from totally different backgrounds, Matthew and Sister Helen became friends when Matthew wrote to Sister Helen’s order requesting for assistance so that he can avoid execution of the crime he has committed. Their correspondence led Sister Helen to finally visit Matthew in the prison. One visit leads to another until such time that Sister Helen finds herself spending a time everyday talking with Matthew. Sister Helen is basically involved in helping the poor African-Americans in New Orleans and do not have any knowledge about criminal chaplaincy. Despite this inadequacy she became Matthew’s spiritual counselor.

Sister Helen opposes capital punishment and she worked to repeal Matthew’s death sentence. This caught the ire of the victim’s family. Mr. Delecroix, one of the victim’s father reprimanded Sister Helen prompting her to visit them and listen to their heart breaking stories of anguish and pain brought about by the senseless killing of their loved ones. She interacts with the grieving family and feels their anger and sorrow. Sister Helen finds herself exposed to entirely different emotions. The pain felt by Matthew who claims to be innocent and the pain felt by the victim’s family who seeks justice for their slain loved ones are too much for an ordinary lady. However, Sister Helen is a strong servant of God who can still offers compassion even to the most despicable human being like Matthew.

Sister Helen did not only try to help Matthew rescind the capital punishment but moreover she helped the man come to terms with himself, face up his guilt, and ask forgiveness for the crime he has committed. She also tried to offer spiritual help to Matthew and guide him to the way of salvation. She also felt scorned by the public as she tries to help Matthew. Over the course of time until the day of the execution, Sister Helen finds herself feeling compassion both towards the criminal who has become her friend and the victims of the crime who still grieved for their loss. On the day of the lethal injection, as Matthew walks to his death, Sister Helen reads the bible and sings hymns while holding the convict’s hand.

Finally, Dead Man Walking is a movie which touches the controversial subject of Capital Punishment just like nuclear war games and more. Tim Robbins, the writer and director of the movie successfully presented the film taking no sides and rightly recognizes that there are no clear cut answers to this issue. Both Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon offered powerful portrayals of their characters. Sean Penn successfully portrays Matthew Poncelet as a vicious and arrogant person who later reveals a lonely and frightened person beneath the facade he tries to hide himself. Susan Sarandon on the other hand is perfect for the role of Sister Helen, the focal point of the movie. She offers strength in the midst of spiritual and moral crisis which haunt both Matthew Poncelet and the family of the victims.

"Dead Man Walking" is a film about human dying in the American penal system, through charity and other requirements of the nuns' work, but it is also a film about the human conscience and the understanding of what Christians among graceful death.

Of course, the film is also about the death penalty, and it even was said that he was acting on nothing else: Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) is in fact convicted to death, the chances of clemency are approximately zero, the execution is imminent. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), although initially concerned about an appeals lawyer, but her expertise is just not the legal stuff, but the human soul. The rest of the film also is about how the nun, the killer tried to elicit a full Tatgeständnis (because so far he has adamantly denied), he should ask the parents of two victims for forgiveness, and accept full responsibility for his act - of course in his own interest, because it dies to be better when you have made peace with themselves and the world. My sister is a success: we see the hard Knacki weep, pray, beg your pardon, - himself witnessed the execution of the spectators after his victory in a state rather than as a sigh relief climax of rage and indignation.

It may be that has Tim Robbins (director) and his wife (Sarandon), and certainly the pious Helen Prejean (of the same woman in the true God) are fairly progressive views on the death penalty, but their film you can not say unfortunately. If the verbal statements against the killing of office because of this bitter cup we have yet to pass up, so at least acknowledges the fatal parallel montage at the film from all doubts: the sequence of execution of the movements of the injection machine and the dying body in rhythmic change with the night's rape and murder scene to derenwegen the criminal has been convicted. It may be that Nichtregisseur Robbins to the devastating consequences of such an assembly was not aware, perhaps, that he so wanted to say, the state murder was just as bad as the private one. But the cinematic syntax makes a very different statement in a movie, is headed to two hours on the guilt of a death candidate with a subsequent execution, this crude figure of speech can be read otherwise than as a legitimization of those barbaric justice like you want to buy an air conditioner in the middle of winter : the undeniable cause and their unfortunate effect, crime and punishment, and although unfortunately not conciliatory in the sense of the Gospel (Jn 7.8.7), then at least Old Testament justice (2. Exodus 21:12!). Such a scene is certainly acceptable to proponents of the death penalty here, the brutal act of a of innocent teenagers and since his messianic punishment, politics certainly debatable, but done with modern means, humane and painless, and after all, the comforting presence of caring physicians, regretful lawyers and loving nuns. - Why most of the film in the U.S. has gone so well in the land of the executioner? For reasons such as Sarandon, Thelma and Louise has to enjoy a completely inappropriate and credibility with moist eyes and quivering lower jaw, of course, intimately understanding-won an Oscar? Of course: the American Way of Being Concerned meets them precisely with such a performance, and they allegedly committed in private against the death penalty. Ever allowed themselves to this point, perhaps all formal shortcomings - the doubt - with apologies to the good intentions of their makers. But when a movie comes along with such a moral claim, he must put up with a moral case: The Christian logic of the argument gives the film a certain philosophical fuzziness, it prevents a clear statement. "Dead Man Walking" commits exactly what has been a Calvary Christian doctrine of original sin: even the worst sense of turning evil in Providence to torture in salvation, - in short, the bad, but thinking than any good.

The scandalous impertinence of the film, however, is that the nun may together with their faith community this conversion in the last minute, this confession of a desperate man to write themselves as pastoral success crucify banners - as if it were a trick to get a man to his knees, the at the end of death row facing the executioner. In this situation - nuns outstretched hands or not - reveals that traditional unholy alliance between government, medicine and the church. In their murderous work sharing any personal views on the death penalty is irrelevant: the state provides for a humane infrastructure of killing the doctor for the physical well-being, the nun for the "be brave" for confession and "dignity". Verily I say unto you, "Dead Man Walking is" a profoundly inhuman film, which may hide his cloven hoof, under the ragged cloak of a Christian humanism poorly.

Because I, too, but do not want to part from you without a sign of reconciliation: Sean Penn plays the delinquent fine, or - it may be a little more balanced? - Exactly the way it would play in Scorsese, so pretty good.

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