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The Hurricane – Written Word



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    Describe an important idea in the film. Explain how visual and verbal features helped you to understand this idea. “Writing is a weapon more powerful than fists could ever be. ” Norman Jewison highlights the power of the written word and education over physical strength throughout The Hurricane. He allows the audience to realise the full extent of this power by employing camera techniques, voiceovers, dialogue and lighting effectively. Through these visual and verbal techniques he teaches the audience that in the end it is the written word that frees Rubin Carter from wrongful imprisonment, not his “fists”. The Sixteenth Round’, Rubin Hurricane Carter’s autobiography,is a symbol of his innocence and search for freedom. Rubin recognises that “that book” is his only chance to convey the truth to the rest of the world. Jewison highlights thefact that the book is “the only thing [Rubin’s] got left” in prison through the use of close-ups when we are first introduced to Rubin. He uses a close-up of Rubin’s face, which allows us to see the anger and aggression he is feeling.

    When Rubin says “that book is the only chance I got to get out of here,” the audience realises that the aggression Rubin is showing isin fact his way of protecting his book – protecting his innocence and the truth that will eventually set him free. The power of the written word is reinforced by the straight on shot used for Rubin in the opening scene. This shot shows the audience that Rubin is the protagonist of the filmas even though he is shown to be aggressive a low angle is not used to portray him as menacing. He is a good character in the film; therefore his book is sincere and honest.

    The audience sees that Rubin values the book as to him it represents his struggle. We also come to understand that Rubin looks to violent threats, e. g. “thefirst one through that door is gonna die,” before he talks rationally with the guard. This teaches us that at the start of the film physical strength is Rubin’s main weapon. Lesra Martin, the young black hero of the film who is taken in by a group of white Canadians, finds Rubin’s autobiography at a book fair. At the book fair Jewison uses a zoom in on a large pile of books to focus on a close-up of ‘The Sixteenth Round’ (which has Rubin’s face on the cover).

    This helped the audience to understand the fated relationship of Rubin and Lesra – how their paths are connected somehow, and the power of the ‘written word’is the key. This is reinforced through the use of dialogue e. g. Sam (one of the Canadians) says “sometimes we don’t pick the books we read, they pick us. ” This also highlights how Rubin and Lesra are drawn together through words, and therefore words must be powerful. Lesra could have chosen one of the many books at the fair (as shown by a pan across the large number of books piled into several carts), but he chose Rubin’s book because he felt a connection with it. I can’t stop reading man, this book’s about my life. ” Lesra is mesmerised by ‘The Sixteenth Round’. The audience is able to see how the ‘written word’ is able to inspire Lesra and give him the confidence to change his own life for the better. Jewison shows how significant ‘The Sixteenth Round’ is in Lesra’s lifethrough the use of Rubin Carter’s voiceover while Lesra is reading. He also uses a fade in to transition from Lesra reading to an event in the book. These techniques allow the audience to link the two characters together through the ‘written word’.

    The voiceover and fade in also show the audience that Lesra is absorbed in Rubin’s story and will do anything to help him. This book encourages Lesra to make contact with Rubin, which he does through writing letters. We see a close up of Lesra’s shaky handwriting to show how he progressed from not being able to read and write at all, to writing a whole letter. Through the power of the written word (i. e. handwritten correspondence) a strong relationship develops between Rubin and Lesra. The relationship between Rubin and Lesra is what gains Rubin the freedom he has been denied for years.

    Initially, Rubin thought his only way to gain freedom was to fight his way out of prison; he made up his mind to “turn his body into a weapon that would eventually set [him] free. ” This is shown to the audience through a sequence towards the beginning of the film wherea series of shots of Rubin building up his physical strength are cut together. We hear a voiceover of Rubin during this sequence saying, “I spoke hate. And its verbs were fists. ” This expresses to the audience that Rubin was so deeply angry with the injustices he faced that he was still full hate and looked to his strengths, i. e. his fists, for an answer.

    As the film progresses, Rubin learns to be a “warrior scholar” – he realises that education is more important than physical strength and passes this message on to Lesra, telling him “writing is a more powerful weapon that fists will ever be. ” This transformation is also shown to the audience through lighting e. g. as Rubin changes from violent and aggressive to a person who values education, the lighting in his cell changes from dark and gloomy to warm and glowing. This also teaches the audience that as Rubin looks less towards violence and more towards education and words for a solution, the hope and love in his life start to return.

    Rubin no longer wants to ‘fight’ his way out of his troubles. We see the new Rubin in Lesra, as Lesra vows to use his education to fight the cycle of poverty his family is trapped in. We see a contrast between the young Rubin who tries to physically fight against injustice and Lesra, who uses his education to fight against injustice. In the end education and words prove to be a more powerful force than physical strength, as it is the ‘written word’ which sets Rubin free. Through Lesra and the Canadians extreme commitment, Rubin is able to build up a court case proving that he is innocent.

    Overall, the power of the written word was an important idea in the film because it is what brought Rubin and Lesra together, and it is what eventually set Rubin free. Through camera techniques, dialogue, voiceovers and lighting the audience was able to understand that it was words which allowed Rubin to finally get his justice and it was education that allowed Lesra to escape the poverty of his hometown. Through written correspondence Rubin learned to love Lesra like a son, and this relationship allowed him to overcome the hate in his life to become truly free. “Hate put me in prison and love’s gonna bust me out. ”

    The Hurricane – Written Word. (2018, Feb 05). Retrieved from

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