To what extent do you agree that films offer insight into society?
The film Crash directed by Paul Haggis offers valuable insight into our modern society. Crash is set in LA and allows us to consider a range of ideas about how we function in a multicultural, diverse modern setting. Haggis presents a complex series of interactions between people who represent a cross section of society. He offers insight into our relationships, our judgement and acceptance of each other, the way we respond to each other, the way we use power to protect and insulate ourselves from each other and the way we communicate or fail to communicate.
The film Crash offers insight into the prejudice that is present in our society. When Daniel is changing Rick and Jean’s locks after the carjacking, there is a close up of his beard, shaved head, tattoos and prison like overalls. He is dressed like a stereotypical Latino ‘gangbanger’. Haggis deliberately misleads the viewer in this scene into thinking that Daniel is a criminal, to show how everyone in society, even the viewer themselves, holds prejudices. When Jean sees Daniel she automatically demands “the locks changed again in the morning” because she thinks that Daniel will “sell their key to one of his homies”. While she is explaining this to Rick there is an extreme close up of her face to show her emotion and fear, emphasising how strongly she feels about the situation. There is a visual focus and close up of Daniel as they are talking, emphasising his ‘gang tattoos’. This is ironic because Daniel is the only character in the film that never shows a ‘bad side’. It offers insight into our society, because through the visual close-up even the viewer finds they are judging Daniel. By showing the prejudice held against Daniel, the nicest character in the movie, Haggis offers a valuable insight into our society, showing how the judgements we make based purely on appearances are not often correct and that racial stereotyping is wrong.
Through the misconduct of the police and politicians, those who we are meant to trust in society, Haggis offers an insight into the abuse of power, and how people use it to protect themselves at the expense of others. This is clear in the scene where Graham and Flannagan are talking. Flannagan, on the behalf of Rick, the D.A, wants to frame Detective Conklin for the murder of a black man, even though he is probably innocent. He is doing so to earn favour with the black community in order to gain more votes. Flannagan is blackmailing Graham to hide evidence showing Conklin’s innocence by pulling out his brother’s file, “twenty-something years old and already three felonies”.
The shots make Graham appear smaller against Flanagan’s larger body, showing that Flannagan is in control of the situation. Even though Graham has the moral high ground, the camerawork reinforces that Flannagan is the one in the position of power. Graham must eventually agree to frame Conklin in order to save Peter, who could otherwise be “going away for life”. The irony of the situation is that Graham sells his dignity and frames an innocent man to save Peter, while Hanson, who murders Peter will probably never be caught for what he has done, showing that those in positions of power can often get away with doing bad things. This abuse of power gives the viewer an insight into society, making them question those in positions of power in their own society and the true motives behind their decisions.
In modern society, we have become so consumerist and superficial that we no longer have deep emotional contact with many people. Haggis wanted to offer insight into our lack of communication and ‘touch’ through Crash. Graham talks about how “nobody touches you” and that “we are forced to Crash into one another just to feel something”. The opening scene shows a montage of multi-coloured headlights, symbolising how people in LA pass by, with their vision of each other blurred. This lack of communication links to the theme of prejudice, as it can often lead to fear and racist stereotyping.
Haggis uses the recurring motif of ‘metal and glass’ to illustrate this sense of isolation in modern society. They are many shots of people from behind windows, or looking out of them and we see a lot of reflection in car doors and mirrors. Haggis uses metal and glass before every ‘crash’ in the film so the viewer realises that if they see this motif, something important is about to happen, eluding to the idea that isolation is behind the prejudice and conflict that arises in the film. When Farhad is about to shoot Lara we see him through his car windshield, showing that he feels isolated and the lack of communication between people is the root of their clashes. Haggis has effectively used camerawork and motifs to offer insight into our world, to show that we are starting to live in isolation, where contact and deep relationships are rare, and that this can only lead to conflict.
The film Crash directed by Paul Haggis is very successful in offering a valuable insight into our society. The abuse of power shown by the DA Rick makes us question those in positions of power, and understand how they use this power for their own benefit. The film also allows us to consider our relationships and the prejudices that we may hold, reminding us to not to become isolated, to step out from behind that ‘metal and glass’ and build strong relationships with people based on trust and communication.