ANATOMY OF A MURDER
Sog.: based on the novel of the same name (1957) by Robert Traver. Scen.: Wendell Mayes. F.: Sam Leavitt. M.: Louis R. Loeffler. Scgf.: Boris Leven. Mus.: Duke Ellington; Int.: James Stewart (Paul Biegler), Lee Remick (Laura Manion), Ben Gazzara (Frederick Manion), Arthur O’Connell (Parnell Emmett Mccarthy), Eve Arden (Maida Rutledge), Kathryn Grant (Mary Pilant), George C. Scott (Claude Dancer), Orson Bean (dottor Matthew Smith), Russ Brown (George Lemon), Brooks West (Mitch Lodwick). Prod.: Otto Preminger per Carlyle Production, Columbia Pictures Corporation. DCP. Bn.
Otto Preminger concluded the 50s – a decade already marked by some of his most audacious work – with this courtroom drama about a country lawyer called on to defend an army lieutenant accused of murdering a bar owner who has allegedly raped the lieutenant’s wife. It is widely celebrated as one of the greatest American films. Based on a real case, Anatomy of a Murder was adapted from a 1957 book by former prosecutor John D. Voelker, which was still a “New York Times” bestseller when the film went into production. Aside from the superb central cast, which includes James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott, the role of the judge went to real-life judge Joseph N. Welch (who is also seen calmly upbraiding Senator Joseph McCarthy in the documentary Point of Order). The film is shot entirely on location, where the actual crime and trial had taken place. The court scenes that make up the majority of the film were shot in sequence, providing the actors with an enriching sense of realism. The result is perfection. Here Preminger is a master architect who designs the overall space, the movement and lighting of each scene – but it is left to the actors and their interpretations of the characters to ‘design the interiors’. As a result, this meticulously planned work of cinema has room to breathe. In this regard, the legendary jazz score by Duke Ellington functions like a catalyst for these two creative forces. This was also another triumph for Preminger in his battle against censorship, as the use of certain words in the film, including ‘rape’, was deemed highly controversial. It’s a double-win in fact, as the film itself is about language, drawing attention to the utterance of each and every word. Through his flawless direction of the courtroom scenes, Preminger makes the act of speaking and speech-making thrilling in its own right. Openly questioning our understanding of law and justice, the film welcomes ‘doubt’ as an integral part of civilisation. The judicial system is depicted as a theatre in which the best actors win, but also a stage capable of revealing the truth, through performance and its revelations.