Monday, January 07, 2008

In The Heat of Night

As I stated in my last post Guerrero in “Framing Blackness” wanted to show how the early commercial film industry reflects white domination of American society, and how it has begun to make changes. The movie we watched today In The Heat of the Night, gave yet another view of the black cop white cop buddy system during the 60s when racism was a huge factor in America. The existence of racism in the country was highlighted by the racism and bigotry shown within the police force. In spite of being a homicide cop because Tibbs was falsely arrested, then purposefully and falsely arrested, then slapped, assaulted by three white males, refused restaurant service, then assaulted again, etc, all because he was black. In other words, Tibbs' race is a crucial narrative component of the screenplay; the film would be altered beyond recognition if he were white. He encounters episode after episode of the degradation of being a Negro in the south. One huge difference however was the relationship between the two cops: Tibbs and the Chief. The two main cops did not act like partners instead they were constantly trying to out prove eachother.
Blacks are portrayed as having menial positions in society, where their job is to serve the white man. In the movie the only black people present were working on the cotton farms, and a black mechanic who opened his home to Tibbs (side note: the mechanic seems the only character with a family). Mr. Endicott (the head of the town) uses black as if slavery were still in existence; he also threatens Tibbs stating that he could have had him shot if they were living in another time. The Chief feels more threatened by Tibb's ability than his color but eventually accepts and respects his ability. Their dinner together at the chief's house shows how close and similar they actually are in regards to their personal lives. In Kings, Heroes in Hard Times he writes about how it is difficult for cops to have a normal family. Both Tibbs and the Chief have no family, have never been married, and feel isolated. It is this isolation and the need to do the best job that they can as cops that they come to a truce and a realization of their similarities. This is seen when they say goodbye at the train station and the Chief says, "take care of yourself.” This finally statement acknowledges the chiefs acceptance as Tibbs being an equal to the other police officers and is a sign of a slow cultural shift of acceptance of black persons having power.
With the theme aside the fourth component of cinematography, Mise-en-scène was used throughout the movie. Mise-en-scene literally means, "put in the scene." For film, it has a broader meaning, and refers to almost everything that goes into the shot, including the framing, movement of the camera and characters, lighting, set design and visual environment, even sound. The films setting and the dress, speech and constant gum chewing by the chief added to the dimension of each individual character. I agree with Danielle that the props used by the four men who cornered Tibbs (chains and bars) in two different scenes was a very good parallel because the intensity of the plot increased towards the end of the movie.


Blogger Cat said...

I think that your view about how the cops come to see each others as equals is very interesting. I agree that there are lots of parallels between the Chief and Tibbs. However, I find it hard to accept that the Chief is trying to do the best job he can as a cop and that this common drive is what leads to the Chief's acceptance of Tibbs as an equal. I mean, throughout the film he brashly arrests various men for the murder of Mr. Colbert despite a lack of evidence to support these arrests. While this may be the Chief's way of competing with Tibbs, a sort of rush to the finish line (in this case an arrest), it seems to me that he's doing a sloppy job that can't be seen as much competition to Tibbs well executed and thorough methods. If an equality emerges at all, I think it must come from the Chief's admiration of Tibbs and not necessarily a parallel between the two characters. But that's just my opinion, good post!

8:36 PM  
Blogger Vladigogo said...

I wonder about the dinner scene between Virgil and Gillespie. Do they really end up seeing eye to eye? Doesn't Gillespie get pissed when he feels like Virgil is pitying him when he talks about being alone? Can they come together when there is still so much anger in Gillespie especially when he calls Virgil a racial epithet?

8:52 PM  

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