Filmmaker, dog

Noble Men in a Cock Forest

Added on by Kenta McGrath.

The last film I saw in 2012, on New Year's Eve, was Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men. Eleven of those men are pictured below. Who are they staring at? That'd be the twelfth and angriest man in the jury room, the last to switch his vote to 'not guilty' and save a kid from the chair. An hour or so before this scenario, there were eleven men looking at Henry Fonda, though not with quite the same eyes. Most of them were angry at him for being an enigmatic loner and a party pooper, refusing to vote 'guilty' in what appeared to be a cut-and-dried murder case. But being Henry Fonda, he managed to change their minds pretty quick.

twelve angry men.jpg

The first film I saw in 2013, on New Year's Day, was Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory. In the shot below, three French soldiers are being tried in a kangaroo court. They've been placed there as scapegoats by the generals, who want to try them for cowardice in order to camouflage their own murderous mistakes. Kirk Douglas, who is as big a superstar as Henry Fonda, does his best to defend the soldiers but it's no good. The court officials are more barbaric than any enemy soldier and the court itself has one purpose, to kill. He can't change a single mind, despite some very moving words.

paths of glory.jpg

Both films are set in strange worlds with no women, with the sole exception of the famous final scene in Paths of Glory. Men rule, and are ruled by other men. In Australia we call these settings 'sausage fests' or 'cock forests'. The films are vastly different, but a key unifying aspect is that they both feature noble men, fighting noble causes in ignoble environments. In other words, they're the ultimate recruiting tools for the legal profession. It's no coincidence that I saw these films back-to-back. Seeing one made me want to see the other, I wanted to be inspired by more noble men fighting noble causes in ignoble environments.

12 Angry Men ends with an innocent man saved from execution and Paths of Glory ends with three innocent men unable to be saved from it. I wonder which scenario has been more inspiring for would-be lawyers over the years, the justice of the former or the injustice of the latter? I wonder how many lawyers have experienced the glory of their onscreen counterparts? The movies have promised them so much.