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Tension In Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men

2071 words - 8 pages

Tension in Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men

Twelve Angry Men is set in summertime New York, 1957. Where a juvenile
delinquent is put on trial for stabbing his violent father in the
chest with a unique knife. A jury of twelve men is ordered by the
judge to vote guilty if there is no reasonable doubt. In the ballot:
eleven vote guilty, but one feels the need to discuss the boy's guilt
and the ambiguity of the evidence given.

In the play, the judge's speech, when read gives the impression that
it is said in a patriotic and serious manner. However in the film this
is not the case, the speech lacks such qualities. The judge speaks in
a lax way to the jury, this could be to ease the spectators' views;
give them the impression that this is a straightforward case so that
they are unprepared for the upcoming tension, soon to unfold.

There are many ways in which Rose manages to make Twelve Angry Men
dramatically effective. The basic storyline itself makes the play more
interesting, the fact that a boy's life depends on the verdict of the
jury. This makes the viewer intrigued and want to find out what
happens, moreover the fact that one juror votes the defendant not
guilty, makes us unsure of what will happen next.

The place in which the play is set is also rather unusual, in that the
whole play takes place in one room, everything happens in the jury
room, and none of the characters are allowed to leave until the jury
has come to a unanimous decision: "…in the silence the sound is heard
of the door being locked". Rose uses this to his advantage. The room
is hot and claustrophobic, giving it more dramatic effect, "seventh
juror: you know something? I called up for the weather. This is the
hottest day of the year". Half way through the play the storm breaks;
this use pathetic fallacy is a good clear reflection as to the mood of
the people.

In the film the room is shown to be very small, drab and rather
barren. The more the jurors are confined together the more conflict
there is due to the disagreement. One strategy used in the film that
gives tension more power is that it is shot in 'realtime' this is
unlike most films where we are used to having gaps in time, where we
miss bits out. For example where the film switches to the next day.
However in 'Twelve Angry Men' this does not happen. We see all that
happens, thus adding to the power of the drama. But if tension were to
run all the time throughout the play it would become very boring. The
tension has to have gaps between the start and the main part. Bathos
is used to cup a sudden build of tension, and then relieve it, for
instance, the re-enactment of the stabbing. After the dispute between
the eighth and third juror they happen to be the ones re-enacting the
incident. The sudden call of the second juror saying 'look out'

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