“Sometimes, there are no words that do justice,” said my professor after the lights flickered back on in the auditorium. So, instead of the standard period of discussion budgeted into the first Friday night of the month, we quietly gathered our things, threw away the trash from our snacks, and filed out of the room. He was right, though. You can watch some films and then immediately want to dive into a discussion that can stretch on into the night, but then there are others that require only quiet reverence. Sure, you could discuss it, but doing so feels almost as if you would cheapen its power. I can’t recall exactly what specific theological or social justice issue was listed on the flyer underneath the image of To Kill a Mockingbird‘s poster, but it turned out none of us needed a discussion that night. Most of us, if not all, had read the book, and some of us had already seen the movie several times before, in a high school English classroom or a late night feature on AMC. However, there was something about sitting down to view it again with the intention of watching it not only for its quiet beauty but the compelling and convicting themes around which the story revolves. It is one of the few films that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its parent novel, and the reason is that nothing of the simplistic power of Harper Lee’s novel was lost in the translation to Horton Foote’s screenplay. For that reason alone, it should be revered.
But here are five more reasons:
#2 – Elmer Bernstein’s extraordinary music. Very few composers know how to write a score that perfectly compliments – rather than over-dramatizes – a film. Elmer Bernstein is one of them, and TKAM is a superb example.
#3 – Robert Duvall. Yes, this was his first appearance in film, and despite his very brief screen time, his sudden materialization behind the bedroom door is almost as iconic as Gregory Peck’s Atticus.
#4 – The courtroom scene. There’s never been a more moving closing argument and verdict in movie history.
#5 – The children. Whether or not you find their voices whiny or their rambunctiousness unsettling, these three kids are their own ensemble, and serve as ideal manifestations of their book counterparts.