The Adstare

Tonight, I'll be discussing a film that you may or may not know from 1957. Taking place in that of the English law system, "Witness for the Prosecution" (directed by Billy Wilder) is a murder mystery about a man accused of a crime and how his defense attorney attempts to prove him not guilty. It is an intense spectacle that I highly suggest you watch for future reference, however, the aspect of the film I wish to specifically talk about isn't so much the content as it is the representation.

First, how does one define law? A simple definition describes it as "the controlling influence of such rules; the condition of society brought about by their the controlling influence of such rules"

However, as you probably all know, law is far more complicated than such a simple case of "rules" and "influence." Law, like many things, is established by people; people and persons who congregate with various ideals, morals, and goals. Yet we establish a system to follow, and draw on mental guid books to check once in awhile when we are unsure of ourselves--as if we are naturally ethical and responsible. Now of course, morals vary from person to person--but law is a solid, unmoving term meant to mean permanence and consequence. How funny that a system meant to regulate people with a set structure of rules and regulations, which was in turn established by said society, often attempts to separate itself from the morals and ethics that it is founded on. It is a fine, fine line between one's personal vendetta and the government's purpose as a whole--yet the two are necessary. One cannot live without the other--allow me to elaborate briefly:

A system of government alone, with only set consequences to "fairly tried" rule-breakers, runs the risk of being too powerful and too self-serving. By which I mean, the populace becomes nothing but numbers in a chart and calculations in a ration based formula. Their concerns are not taken into account and the government itself becomes the state, the identity, and (unknowingly) the problem. The lawyer character in "Witness for the Prosecution" (played by Charles Laughton) represents an aspect of this mindset in the beginning of the film as he has faith in the law and its invisible hand over society (or society over it). Please do not misunderstand though, this character is far from naive, and knows the system's useless without human interference and understanding. Take this scene between Sir Wilfred (Laughton) and his client (Tyrone Prower):

Leonard Vole: But this is England, where I thought you never arrest, let alone convict, people for crimes they have not committed.

Sir Wilfrid: We try not to make a habit of it.

--Witness for the Prosecution

Humorous, yes, but dark in its innate sincerity. Of course, Sir Wilfrid takes the case and fights for his client's wellbeing--all the while believing in his country's law system while defying all the evidence presented for his own morals and ideals. It is here where I explain the essential beauty of this film--that is, its representation of the legal system. The entire trial scene, the entire film essentially, is an iconic representation of the necessary balance between moral individuality and government set systems of law. They must coincide with one another in order to be successful in what they were intended to accomplish. Lawyers, specifically, play a role as this symbol. They, represent the intent of their clients, stand before the Judge and Jury (who are themselves representations of the government and law), and then take part in a civil battle of wits, facts, and circumstantial evidence. Of course, this is highly romanticized and dramatized; no such court system is so flashy in their roles. However, the trial scene is staged this way purposefully in order for the ending to be that much more shocking and controversial. I dare not reveal it to you. No you must look it up yourself to understand what I am referring to; however, I will leave you with the essential moral for the night.

Your government, state or federal, will only work to the degree that the people allow or push it to work. It cannot function however, without the discourse and dialogue between that of various perspectives and morals. Without your voice, to protest or agree, the system cannot continue on its own. True, your opinion will most likely cause disagreement, maybe even physical protests, but it is necessary for our Government to function as well as further improve. Without tension or dialogue, an assumption rises that we all have the same opinion and that we all agree on what ever action occurs. We have no varying perspectives and thoughts and therefore we remain in a standstill. Or worse, those with a different opinion to the majority are forced into silence --which in itself can lead to far more grave consequences than a simple debate or discussion.

What do you think? What are your thoughts? Comment your opinions! Disagreement and other perspectives are more than welcome! Debates are encouraged! For I wish to open my mind and continue to grow as an individual and as a citizen.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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