Of mice and men Film Essay
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“Of mice and men” is a very touching film of hopes dreams and friendship. Adapted from the novel by John Steinbeck. The film is about two friends, Lennie and George, with a dream of great times with their own land and house. But there is a another story intertwined with theirs, about what people think of women. The two stories together will hold you in an array of emotions from joy to sorrow, and pride to guilt. This film if full of brilliant acting and meaningful uses of light and props.
Of the two stories we will look at the one about women.
We open the film with a man sitting in the shadows. Little light is coming in through the slits in the wood he is leaning on. He looks depressed and upset and bows his head as if he’s trying to recall his memories of what went wrong to lead to this depression. And then we are suddenly in a field with early evening light filling a beautiful landscape, the main focus of our attention is of the woman running across the picture, she’s white with brown hair wearing a torn red dress.
As she runs we can see she’s trying to run away form something or somebody, she’s crying and the only sound we hear is her distressed breathing like she wants to cry but is holding the tears back. She looks like she has been attacked, although the dress is torn we only see a petty coat and not any flesh so this suggests that it might not have been sexual. But we can’t really say for sure. The red dress represents passion so this says it could be sexual. We the see the two main characters running so we now think that they are connected to this. We never see this woman again in the whole of the story.
The next woman we find is first only known as ‘Curly’s wife’. She first comes into the story when she enters the bunkhouse where Lennie and George have only just arrived and are unpacking. She’s wearing a flowery dress which could be seen as innocent as it is cool colours and doesn’t reveal much of her figure. Her hair is also in a very feminine style again to show innocence.
“I’m looking for curly” she says, almost as if she needs an excuse for being there. But also at the same time using it in an almost flirty sort of way trying to see how the new boys will react.
“He was in here a minute ago, but he left” George replies cutting off that conversation. He hasn’t stopped staring at her since she entered but not in a flattering way. We know he is a cautious person and he is almost looking at her trying to spot any type of threat. Especially as when Curly was in here he wasn’t particularly nice. So his wife, even if she isn’t like him in character, can still get him into trouble.
“Well I guess I better look some place else” she says turning to face the door, only not to leave, just so the light shines on her from outside, showing off her figure. We now know that this girl is just one big flirt and George can see that. He wants her to leave as it’s the only thing that can happen to stop this tension, he can’t leave with Lennie as they have no excuse to.
Eventually after some more flirty lines she leaves. Through this scene we have been introduced to the only other woman in the film and we know she’s a flirt and danger even if her image suggest otherwise at times. The camera reinforces this along with what she does. It starts with full body shots at the beginning of the scene and as she gets more flirtatious the shots concentrate on her upper body, then just her face, the attention is on her a lot of the time.
The next scene with Curly’s wife is in a barn as George takes a mule in. As he calls out for the stable buck she answers instead and comes half way over to some bags of hay. She’s in another flowery dress, again trying to portray innocence be we know that she is anything but innocent. This time she is also holding a book, possibly a story or maybe a diary, either suggest that maybe she isn’t as much of the tart as we first thought and that she enjoys reading.
Once again she tries to start a conversation, but George is still cautious of her and ignores her, concentrating on the mule. So to try to entice him she starts to once again flirt, as she sits on the bags of hay she leans back a little defining her chest. Her dress has ridden up revealing quite a bit of her leg, she pats the seat next to her trying to get him to come over. But still he just ignores her so she shouts.
“come over here and talk to me!” he gets up and walks over to her. She calms down now she has her way. So she flirts to get her way most of the time but what we really want to know is if she really after a conversation or whether she only wants a cheap thrill like she has implied. All we have seen of her is her flirting and even now as he’s come over to talk she is leaning against a pole like a lap dancer, asking about whether he has a sweetheart back home. We can almost certainly say that she is only after one thing. But then some thing happens that maybe changes our perspective of her. Her husband comes in. He ask what’s going on and she says
“I wasn’t talking to you.” he replies “get back in the house.”
“you don’t own me curly.” She says
he now comes close to her and says in a way that seems like he might hit her
“I said go”. And so she does. In this brief 2 minute talk we can see her relationship with her husband isn’t a good one but he had just caught her with another man so maybe he can justify his anger. In this scene we have seen that Curly’s wife is as we thought very flirty but that her relationship with her husband might cause this.
She next walks into shot again in a flowery dress with a book as Lennie and George are hard at work in a field. In the scene before this Lennie and Curly have a fight. Lennie ends up with a bruised and scratched face and Curly gets a broken hand.
“Hi.” she says, this is given a glance but they don’t reply or give any recognition.
“sure is hot out here to day.” She try’s again to get conversation going. But again they don’t care and keep on working. So she try’s again.
“I said it sure is hot out here.”
“why don’t you go back to your house we don’t want no trouble.” Says George in a way that says I know I cant force you but I don’t want you here. This is of course because of what Curly did. She is taken aback by this, she is used to being ignored but not told to leave by anyone other than her husband.
“I just want some one to talk to.” She says.
“you got a husband, go talk to him” George replies.
“yeah I got a husband.” She says almost in a disappointed way.
She then asks how Curly got his hand broken. To which George lies and says he got his hand caught in a machine. But this doesn’t fool her so seeking an answer she asks Lennie who she knows won’t have the mental capacity to make up a lie.
“how did you get those scratches on your face?” she asks. Lennie looks to George and then looks away saying,
“he got it caught in a machine.” He answers.
“is that so?” She says with a look that is trying to work out how Lennie thinks. Almost as if she is concerned for him. She then quietly leaves. In this scene we begin to see that she isn’t stupid she can work things out. Also that she doesn’t like Curly and being married to him. The possibility that all she wants is some one to talk to is again present.
In her penultimate scene we change our whole opinion of Curly’s wife. Its set at night as Lennie and George are returning to the bunk house. Most of the other men are still in town spending their money in a whore house on girls and drink. Just as they are about to enter the bunk house Curly’s wife comes out of the shadows looking upset and as if she has been crying.
“is curly back yet?” she asks.
“no.” says George knowing that Curly could very well be with another woman right now. She then says how Curly broke her records and we finally see a frail side of her caused by the fact her husband is now out possibly with another woman, he doesn’t even talk to his wife, he doesn’t even leave her with some measly records to listen to. We are shoved into feeling sorry for this poor girl and guilty that we thought she was just after a cheap thrill, when all she really wanted was someone to talk too. We get to see the woman’s frail side in this scene and we finally see her true motivation for the way she is, we see that she is very hurt and is just good at putting a brave face on things.
In her last scene Curly’s wife walks into a barn where Lennie has just accidentally killed a puppy. As she comes over he hides away and says how she would get him in trouble.
“what’s wrong with me?” she shouts at him as he rejects her company. Lennie doesn’t see her as a sex object and so he doesn’t see any danger in her although he is slightly attracted to her. So he opens up a little to her and in turn she opens up and finally we see her shed this mask that only shows her body and the fact that she is just a woman and should be treated as just some object. But now Lennie is sitting there talking to her as an equal and this is the sort of interaction with other people that she has tried to get through out the whole film. We find out as she opens up that she wanted to be an actress and she had plans to go to the theatre or Broadway and be an actress. Lennie is going on about tending the rabbits and not really listening but still Curly’s wife doesn’t care and talks about her dreams still.
Eventually they do start listening to each other, and they find a common like for soft things. She lets him feel her hair, and then we see her open up in another way. Usually Curly is only interested in one thing, quick sex to satisfy him with no feelings involved, but here with Lennie she is being appreciated with close touch. She likes the fact he is being gentle and soft only after the simple pleasure of being able to stroke her hair. But he is a child in a strong mans body and he doesn’t let go of her hair when she asks him to stop as he gets a little rough, and she screams, he grabs her and gags her, he only wants her to stop shouting but as he lays her back down we see that he has broken her neck. She lies silently in a pool of light on the hay as Lennie runs in fear. For a brief second we saw this beautiful woman blossom and show her true self and now she is gone.
Though this film we see a progressing way in how men picture women. In the bunk house scene all we see is a flirty woman, and we are focused on her body. In the second scene we get another showing of this but at the end we see her giving in to her husband and maybe a suggestion of how he treats her. Next we see her being ignored by the boys, they consider her trouble even thought its not directly her fault, also we see a bit of her intelligence and that she isn’t that stupid. Then finally we see her frailty and that she is not just a pair of breasts on legs, she has feeling as well as a mind and emotions. We can conclude that because of the way men see her, causes her to flirt as it’s the only way to get any attention.
Because she doesn’t get the conversation and interaction from Curly she turns else where and flirting is the only way to get that interaction she wants. In the last scene we see her mind, her dreams, opinions and thoughts. we see the side of her that has been ignored by every one just because she’s a woman. Through the whole film we don’t even get to know her name. But with Lennie these barriers are broken as he doesn’t understand them and so she can open up and talk to this person. Even though he might not be listening he isn’t blocking her out because she a woman and she gets the interaction that she wants and that she has been searching for. Then finally she dies and we are left with a memory of a woman that showed her mind to us and how she was no longer just a body to be looked at by men. But for a brief moment considered as an individual person.