Explain two of the main ideas/themes revealed in the film you have studied and show how these have been conveyed. When people feel that they do not belong, they tend to try their hardest to befriend their peers surrounding them. They also do not want others to have negative views of them due to prejudice. In the film School Ties, directed by Robert Mandel, David Greene himself shows the theme of alienation to the audience. The reactions of others towards David show the theme of prejudice.
Robert Mandel has delivered these two themes through various characters, using a variety of visual and verbal techniques. At the beginning of the film, when David first arrives at St Matthews, he is amazed at the elegance of the school. We know that the school is luxurious as we are given an extreme long shot of the school to emphasise the grandness of the school. The ambient sound of the church bells ringing also adds to this effect. We also know that David is amazed as he says, “This is a high school? ” with confusion and amazement in the tone of his voice.
He also looks at the school, in awe. We can recognise the awe in his face as we are presented with a reaction shot of David, clearly being able to understand his emotions. Immediately, we can see that he is out of place as he is used to schools that tend to be more small and crowded in the poor coalmining town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. We know that David is from a low socio-economic class, judging by the appearance of his house very close to the start of the film. We are given a high angle shot of their apartment, which suggests that his family was quite poor.
Centred in the extreme long shot of the school, is the church. Mandel has done this on purpose to provide the audience with another reason why David does not belong. This reason, is that the school that David is about to attend, is strongly Christian; and David is a Jew. Prior to and during the first assembly, we are shown how David is different. Before the assembly, David does not have a school tie, which represents a similarity between students. During the assembly, there are frequent close ups of David’s face. This is done to bring emphasis to to awkward position David is in.
We can see the confusion in his face. He is also positioned in the centre of the screen. This is done to compare him to the other students and he immediately stands out from the crowd. Instantly, we can see the level of alienation that David has been introduced to. Prejudice is an important theme in the film as the film was set shortly after World War II and Adolf Hitler’s Jewish concentration camps. We are shown the theme of prejudice throughout the film by the way others react to David’s Jewish culture. After the Winchester football game, David goes to the church to pray for Rosh Hashanah.
Dr Bartram interrupts David and starts to converse with him. We see that Dr Bartram classes David different to him as he says, “You people are very determined, aren’t you? ” This shows the prejudice of Dr Bartram as he is generalising the characters of Jews and thinks that they are all the same. This is one of the few instances of the film where prejudice has not been used in a negative way. When it has been revealed that David is a Jew, by Charlie Dillon, his friends views towards him suddenly change. This is clear when David goes back up to his room after the shower scene.
Chris Reece, David’s roommate, is unwilling to confront David because prejudice has implemented negative generalisations of Jews into Reece’s mind and has caused him to judge David based on those generalisations. There are also many close up reaction shots of Reece to convey to the audience the thoughts going on in his head. Prejudice is a strong external force that has not only dictated the mind of Reece, but also other students of St Matthews. However, a small range of students were able to conquer prejudice and do what was ethically correct.
These few students included Rip Van Kelt, Jack Connors, and Reece after reexamining his thoughts. From this, we can see that prejudice is a vital factor in the film. In the film, the two themes are linked as prejudice constantly determines the amount of alienation that David goes through increases by. Alienation has drawn a boundary around David, separating him from the rest of the students. As David is slowly decreasing the size of the boundary with a goal of completely abolishing it, prejudice has redrawn the boundary, but has made the size bigger than it had originally started as.
Repeatedly, prejudice has been a catalyst in increasing David’s alienation from the other students of St Matthews. For the few that had conquered prejudice, the boundaries separating David from them had been destroyed. Prejudice and alienation are conveyed throughout the film using mainly dialogue and camera shots. This film demonstrates how these two essential themes does not only affect David’s life, but can also potentially affect our lives. The film also helps to teach us that we should never let prejudice impact our friendships.
Courtney from Study Moose
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