Hi, could anyone please give me feedback on my film review of American HIstory X for English Portfolio

American History X is about Derek, a Neo-Nazi who serves three years in prison for a hate crime against black people. During his stay in prison, he’s trying to change his ways. Along with the thoughts of how to stop his brother who’s trying to follow the same road he took. The hatred Derek has for coloured people is shaped by his father’s death. However, throughout the film, the timeline and Derek’s change of opinion toward black people was not realistic in any way. Since this negative outcome occurs in the film, the director (Tone Kaye) uses much cinematography to hide the flaws of the film from the eyes of the audience.

As an audience, the power of cinematography hides what we can’t see through the naked eye. It is used to shape our perspectives into what the director wants us to see. Derek changed his opinion over six months. However, it doesn’t account for the fact that he killed two black men in the most gruesome way. The power of using black and white cinematography shows the recent past and the colour shows the past 24 hours. Yet, it doesn’t give the audience a sense of how quickly Derek is changing his opinions of his past actions. Over six months? That timeline is unrealistic for his pathway to change. One thing that stood out is that the director uses many close-up shots. These close-up shots capture the audience’s emotions and attention. The director uses these visual techniques to keep the audience focused on what is right in front of them. But did they do a good job? Our minds are conscious of what we see and that’s what the director wants. There are constant black-and-white flashbacks of Derek fitting in with the white power faction. Derek is however disappointed that all the major groups in prison have an operating agreement. This leads us to a scene where he and a black prisoner named Lamar bonded over laundry. Or should I say underwear? The way the director changes scenes from Derek’s time in prison to the now, only makes the audience think of how the change of opinion happened rapidly.

Let’s take a real-life example for a moment, Arno Michaelis. Arno Michaelis in the late 1980s and early 1990s was a founding member of what went on to become the largest racist skinhead organization in the world. However, by the mid-1990s, he dropped out of the skinhead scene and slowly changed his life to become an advocate against hatred and racism. This change did not happen over six months. It was a really slow journey that took many years. Unconditional forgiveness in creating life from hurt is not easy. You don’t suddenly wake up and think to yourself ‘I don’t hate black people anymore”. The fact that Derek changed so quickly in American History X is impracticable. Unlike Derek, Arno had that little glimmer of hope. Being a single parent, the love for his daughter and the forgiveness shown by the people he once hated all helped to turn his life around. Derek and Lamont talked about normal things that guys talk about, and shared experiences. Lamont’s relentless bombardment of humour, wit, and wisdom caused Derek to undergo a psychological transformation. However, was it enough? Did it have enough effectiveness for Derek to change his deep hatred for black people?

Another common cinematography technique that pops up throughout the movie is slow motion. Anytime there’s a violent scene, slow motion is used to intensify the reaction of the audience. This clever technique is used to invoke an emotional reaction from the audience which it’s so powerful that they are blinded by the obvious flaws in the film. It’s not only Derek that transformed over time, Danny does too. The slow motion of Danny’s killing shocks the audience because he now appears to be innocent. He has transformed overnight by listening to Derek’s story and writing one essay. This is so unrealistic. The slow motion hides this. Is this why Tony Kaye didn’t want his name on the film? Tony Kaye presented an initial cut that lasted around 95 minutes which according to himself, was a better version. Unfortunately, Edward Norton was permitted by the producers to edit and alter the film. Therefore increasing the role of his performance. In controversy, Tony Kaye wanted an end that was more realistic and gruesome. However, Norton wanted an end that was more Hollywoodise because Hollywood likes happy endings. In the end, it happened. The power of cinematography could, and does, manipulate the audience to see that, whatever is seen on the screen with our own eyes is what it is. It isn’t what it is. When are we going to see a film that’s moving and emotionally realistic in many ways? Are we ever going to see one?

Kia ora Seetai1 - great to see you back using Studyit!

Just for some context - what would you say the purpose and audience for this piece of writing is - for example would you say it is a film review? A literary essay?