Crash

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Stage 2 English Communications: Crash Film Study

"In the end, everyone is flawed, the racism is inescapable, and the audience feels a twinge of empathy for just about everyone.” Who did you feel most empathy for in this film and why? Support your comments with close reference to the characters, incidents and filmic treatment in your answer.

The film, Crash, exemplifies fear as a motivator for human behavior and displays that innately everyone is flawed. Our identities are determined by the choices we make and our reactions to others, regardless of class, ethnicity, culture or language. Through the use of an ironic script, symbolism and effective cinematography, Director, Paul Haggis, encourages us to empathize with characters such as Daniel, the Latino locksmith. Contrasting with many of the other characters, Daniel's non-confrontational attitude is admirable and essentially his salvation.

Daniel, played by Michael Pena, is a family man whose primary motive is to provide for and protect his family. In contrast to many other characters, the 'crashes' in his life are beyond his control and despite trying to help people, he experiences bigotry and class superiority which evokes empathy from the audience. Daniel is first introduced at the home of the wealthy Cabbots, whose recent car-jacking has caused them to replace the locks. Daniel's social standing is suggested with the use of camera angles and stereotypes. This is evidenced in the Cabbot's kitchen as the shot pans down Jean Cabbot's feet as she descends the stairs, where her high physical position indicates her class superiority juxtaposed by Daniel, subordinately crouched beneath the stairs fixing a lock. Furthermore costume design has been used to imply Daniel is a "gang-banger", which is accentuated by close-ups of tattoos, a shaved head and low-slung jeans. His appearance prompts Jean to stereotype, stating "your amigo in there is gonna sell our key to one of his homies..." Overhearing this comment Daniel leaves as the camera poignantly focuses on two sets of keys left on the kitchen bench. This scene inevitably persuades the audience to feel empathically for Daniel; racially profiled and judged solely on his appearance.

This scene is later contrasted as Daniel is shown as a caring family-man and the motivation for his action is revealed. After returning home from work, Daniel visits his five-year-old daughter's bedroom. He finds Lara curled beneath her bed, afraid that a bullet will tear through her window. The scene is softly lit as hushed lullaby-type' music plays in the background suggesting the room is a safe oasis from the world. He proceeds to tell Lara a story about a fairy and 'gives' her an imaginary 'cloak of invincibility' that has protected him, "And my whole life, I never got shot, stabbed, nothing." Close-up camera angles display the faces of Daniel and Lara depicting the emotion in the scene.

Furthermore, Daniel's character has a deeper symbolic meaning. Paul Haggis has used the movement through doors as a filmic technique to switch between each character's storyline. As a chapter closes or opens in the lives of one of the characters, a physical representation is depicted by the closing or opening of doors; elevators, cars, shops. However the 'doors' and locks can be viewed on a deeper level as symbolising the transition point of the characters' situations and ultimately the choices in their lives. Daniel, as in his profession of 'fixing' locks, is able to assist others to realize their short comings. He is unable to 'fix' doors, yet he can mend broken 'locks'. By refraining from retaliation when he is referred to as a 'Gang-banger', Daniel is halting the chain of racism by not reacting to the slur. This is also clearly highlighted in Daniel's encounter with Farhad, which eventually shifts Farhad's perception of the world.

The audience is persuaded to empathise further for Daniel as he is called to fix a lock for Persian store-owner,...
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