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Philadelphia- Analysis of Conflict and Unity Essay

The movie Philadelphia is mainly focused on one man, Andrew Beckett, against the discrimination he faces by the giant law firm he worked for. Andrew is aided in his battle by another man, Joe Miller. The director Jonathan Demm characterises both men to establish conflict and then unity. This is established through the use of various camera techniques, through the use of dialogue and also through the storyline by exemplifying their similarities and differences.

Following the opening credit sequence of the city, we are immediately introduced to both the main characters, Andrew Beckett and Joe Miller. Both are introduced as lawyers and it is also evident that they are arguing against each other. This establishes a sense of difference and opposition. This impression is enhanced by the racial difference between the two, Joe being black and Andrew being white. At first both are shown in close ups, shown separately, however the camera shifts to a two shot which is used to show them in the same frame, sitting together. This is significant as it foreshadows their original conflict and eventual unity. After this confrontation both Andrew and Joe are shown in the elevator, behaving similarly, talking on their phones. Demm characterises both men so that even though a sense of conflict and opposition is established in the film, this scene demonstrates their similarities. This is used to establish a slight sense of unity; however it is mainly used to foreshadow their eventual unanimity.

Throughout the movie their similarities as well as differences have been accentuated to establish a sense of conflict and unity. Another example of their differences is towards the end of the film, when Andrew and Joe both attend a fancy dress party with their partners. This is the only time both couples are shown together and is especially significant when they are dancing. Andrew and his partner Miguel, are shown dancing together very closely, however the camera then shifts to Joe and his wife. This highlights their difference in sexual orientation and again establishes an ongoing sense of conflict, even though they have become quite close at this point.

Another important scene which displays their similarities is in the library. Both men are there and the scene is used to parallel them, as a library is connotation for learning. This similarity is used to establish unity and is further supported when Joe sit with Andrew to look over his notes. At first Joe leaves and then we physically see him torn between his personal opinion and justice. This again represents their conflict which is substantiated when Joe sits with Andrew; however he seems to be quite tense. The camera constantly shifts between close ups of both characters and then both are shown together in an aerial shot. Andrew is seen passing a law book to Joe who accepts it. The book represents the law and justice and that is what acts in unifying both characters, as Joe is seen as accepting the case.

At the commencement of the case, and throughout the whole case, the camera plays an important role in showing the unity between Andrew and Joe. The camera constantly reverts to a two shot of Andrew and Joe which signifies their unity, and shows that they have overcome most of their original conflict however some of it still remains. While the case is going on, there is scene in a drug store, in which Andrew is approached by a homosexual footballer who asks Joe out. Joe is furious that he has been classed in the same bracket as Andrew, being gay. This shows that there is still a sense of ongoing conflict between Andrew and Joe, as Joe still seems uncomfortable on issues concerning homosexuality.

Throughout the movie the dialogue plays an important role in showing the conflict and unity between Andrew and Joe. This is especially evident through the use of numerous quotes from Joe, regarding homosexuality and Andrew. When Andrew originally approaches Joe to represent him in court and Joe refuses it is because that Andrew is gay and has AIDS. Andrew asks Joe if he doesn’t accept the case for personal issues and Joe admits “Yes, that’s right”. This obviously shows that Joe is uncomfortable with Andrew and establishes a sense of conflict.

This is again evident when he visits the doctor, worried that he might obtain AIDS. Joe then says to the doctor “I don’t like them; I don’t want this person to touch me”. Joe states his obvious discomfort against gays later in the film when he is in the pub. “These people make me sick but a law has been broken” is what Joe says when people are insulting him in the pub. All these various quotes show that there is obvious conflict between Andrew and Joe however the law is what unifies them.

In conclusion Demm uses many methods so that Andrew Beckett and Joe Miller are both characterised in the movie, to establish conflict and then unity. This is achieved through the use of various camera techniques and the use of various dialogues. It is also achieved through the actual storyline and the manner in which Andrew and Joe are juxtaposed to create a sense of conflict however their similarities are also highlighted to show their eventual unity.


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