Is a court a theatre? Is a trial theatrical? It seems to be a reality show on the stage: costumes, roles, audience, emotions. The protagonist (the accused) stays in the centre of the action – he/she is like an object that is exposed on the show. Being on the stage can become a ritual of shame or a process of purification. In United States 12 citizens settle the validity of accusations. They become a 12-headed god who decides about life and death; freedom and condemnation. They seem, to be even more important actants than the accused. Sidney Lumet, the director of the movie ’12 Angry Men’ highlights their drama. His movie is more about the spectacle of doubts than about a trial itself.
’12 Angry Men’ is – above all – a treaty of inflexibility. One man sees in the accused something that other people don’t – a shadow of possible innocence. What’s important, he is not convinced about lack of guilt, but he is not sure about guilt. His persistence is impressing – the life of the accused becomes a part of his own existence, and a duty turns (literally!) into a matter of life and death. His fight is not only about justice, but it’s also about the purity of conscience.
In a metaphorical way, one juryman who is looking for the smallest pieces of truth becomes an embodiment of all weaknesses of democracy. The director focuses on presenting the fatal effects of amicability and compromising. He presents the situation of the jury as a space of proving their (in)humanity. Being a juryman becomes a test from justice and love – you agree with the majority and go home, or you remain faithful to your heart and intuition and keep looking. The director shows the justice system as both – totally imperfect and genius. The problem is – you never know if the jury will respect a life that is in their hand.
’12 Angry Men’ is a movie that constantly keeps in suspense. The director perfectly presents the spirit of the man who believes in justice. The whole movie is concentrated around the inflexibility of one brave juryman who knows that is system is created by people and for people, not inversely.
’12 Angry Men’ is one of the best movies in the history of cinema and a visual handbook for those who dream of immortality. Its director seems to be a secret magus – the perfection of his works seems to be coming from the other world; from the beautiful land of cinema that doesn’t need to use special effects to grip crowds.