Close Up

10 April 2016: Take Two: Passage à l'Acte / To Kill a Mockingbird


Passage à l'Acte
Martin Arnold
1990 | 15 min | B/W | 16mm

"Passage à l'Acte (1993) makes a simple breakfast scene from To Kill a Mockingbird look like a surrealist nightmare. The 1950s family is the target here. Those who know the film will recognize the characters as a father, his two kids, and a neighbour woman, but the film transforms them into a crazed version of the post-war family. While "Mother" sits with a frozen smile and Father (Gregory Peck) reads the paper, sonny boy gets up from the table and opens and closes the screen door repeatedly. The slamming of the door sounds like gunfire, hinting at an unnamed aggression occurring somewhere just outside this sacred space of the '50s home and perhaps at disturbing forces at work within this family. Arnold's exploitation of these characters is pitiless; like an evil puppeteer he repeats a shot of Gregory Peck screaming words and parts of words to stultifying effect, while the son twitches back and forth with some unknowable frustration and the daughter makes guttural noises that attain a kind of robot rhythm." – Lightcone

To Kill a Mockingbird
Robert Mulligan
1960 | 129 min | B/W | DCP

At the heart of both the film and Harper Lee’s much-loved source novel is a child’s-eye view of the imperfect ways of the adult world. Six-year-old Scout (Mary Badham) watches her father Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) raise his dignified fists against bigotry, deceit, injustice and a symbolic rabid dog as he argues his doomed case in a small-town courtroom, in defence of the falsely accused African-American Tom Robinson (Brock Peters). But eloquence and virtue are no match for generations of race hatred and petty motives, as Scout learns at the cost of childhood illusions. This brave and faithful adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel was made at a time when the civil-rights battles in the US were coming to the boil.