A Buried Hollywood Masterpiece: Inherit the Wind

The battle of science vs religion remains within the repeated discussions of our period, with loyalties still devoted to a singular side, and the idea of dabbling both would be an act of betrayal from either camp. The two divided concepts have played a tug of war against one another within my heart and mind, throughout the formulating years of my life, unable to decide which of the two made more sense and is deserving of my deep devotion; it was as I progressed through life that I realised that one shouldn’t define my perspective of my surroundings, I would take in what I believe is fitting to my needs, a spiritual perspective that is purely tailored and therapeutic, rather than torment myself of the idea of uncompromising choice. Thus now I stand at the age of 20, with a profession in the field of Nursing, caring for the sickly through the basis of researched evidence, whilst attending to prayer every night and methodically and consciously enter the steps of the church every Sunday, at least to the best of my abilities; and with all of it, I feel more content and spiritually healthy, the meaning of life is taken on with a personal and accepted perspective, one that enriches our all too short of an experience.

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Inherit the Wind struck me with its thoughtful debates of its loyally divided camps, initially sparked by a broken law in the town of Hillsboro as a young professor’s teachings of Darwinism conflicted with the legal and social standards of its community. The trial’s prosecutor Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March), is a deeply religious man and is in favour of the trial’s outcome, while the defendant’s attorney is Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) feels there is a sense of injustice in the young professor’s accusations, and firmly believes that such choice should be welcome to this tight community. Both legal figures become the film’s point of focus, allowing them to initially don their loyal skins, and slowly develop them as the trial proceeds, and display the humanity that would either justify or break them. They remain compelling throughout, despite my antagonistic perceptions towards Brady’s stubborn beliefs, as the film slowly penetrates them and provide significant weight to the multiple confrontations they would bring towards one another in court; we feel a strong density in the case’s outcome, as spoken by one of the characters in the film, the result would pave the way of humanity’s future.

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The trial itself was based off true events during 1925, and though possibly fictionalised heavily, the impact that would have been felt at the time, is certainly translated clearly through Stanley Kramer’s direction; filling the film with long takes and intimately focused but also stylish camera movements that breathes fresh air to the stillness of a traditional courtroom drama. An approach that would reach its peak in the film’s dramatically explosive climax, where an interrogation taking place would initially take on a sense of intimacy between the questioner and the responder, then as it emotionally builds, the inevitable explosion is allowed to be felt through the waves flowed through the room, seeing the reactions of the audience while also the revelations found in both participating members, which would then be further refined in its final moments through concluding speeches and a desperate act of redemption of his once loyal followers; a moment that mustered up a deep level of sympathy from myself, during which I could not help but form tears for the man, as the Kramer takes his camera and displays him at his most vulnerable, a beautifully constructed but painfully aching moment.

This, of course, being a courtroom drama; performances from the cast are relied to carry the film’s dramatic scenery, and without a doubt, the chosen cast has outperformed themselves, even if I have yet to see any of the other works that these cast members have starred in (except of course, Gene Kelly). Spencer Tracy was powerful from the moment we see him in the courtroom, a man despised by the bias community, attempting the best he could to deliver a strong argument for his client, during which some moments are unfairly denied; it is a leading role that certainly provides many opportunities for outbursts but Tracy provides the same powerful and dedicated effort in the film’s more quieter moments, where the character is simply sitting at his chair as he waits for his opponent to end his argument; a wonderful entrance into the actor’s work that would hopefully lead me to similarly fruitful performances. Although Tracy is the film’s root-worthy figure, I found myself more compelled of the performance brought by Fredric March, who truly provides one of the best performances in the film’s final 30 minutes; a tragic transformation that would lead to his own inevitable self-destruction, a moment that strays far from generating feelings of justice but rather of sympathy; a penetrative moment that is simply rare in the world of cinema. Gene Kelly also was a stand out with a twist to his usual charming leading role, this time a shift to the supporting backseat and portrays a character with a deeply rooted sense of cynicism that would later turn on him as other character endure their growth; a man, much like the members of the community, who remains pure to their beliefs, and to top it all off, is driven by his journalistic opportunism that never becomes entirely redeemed, but Kramer thoughtfully provided the character a subtle sense of humanity in the film’s final minutes, a moment that I refuse to spoil and is necessary to be experienced with a slight ignorance.

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Inherit the Wind is a thoughtful drama that consistently hits hard with its strong themes and held tightly by the powerful performances brought by its cast; the sweet spot of course is the stylish technicality that Kramer brings to the courtroom drama, where he utilises his camera to the best of his abilities, hence providing an experience that is still unmatched by the many similar-themed and structured features of today; a true Hollywood classic that stands among the ranks of the greatest, a worthy piece that demands repeated dissections and discussions.

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