Movie Review – The Grapes of Wrath

Posted: June 2, 2013 in Movie Reviews
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As soon as the title flashed I was in for a shock. All the while, while reading the book I imagined the whole picture in color. To see the adaptation in Black and white was a sudden shock to me. I’m the one who must be blamed because how could a 1940 movie be in color. But that didn’t strike my innocent mind. Even our mind has got adapted to the inherent colorfulness around us.

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It took me close to a quarter of an hour to settle into this picture. I didn’t really like Henry Fonda as Tom Joad. I wanted Humphrey Bogart to be Joad. Nevertheless he was apt too. Rest all characters were pitch perfect, especially them in the family. They were just like how we wanted them to be. Ma’s warmth was incorrigible just as in the book. This is the disadvantage of reading books. No matter how hard the director tries we can’t easily accept it as faithful adaptation into the big screen because we tend to spend a lot of time in books, it becomes part of our universe for sometimes. But movies just happen for a couple of hours so it’s tough for us to get the same feeling what we get while reading books. For me the only exception happened in the form of Lord of the Rings – The movie. Thanks to 3 lengthy movies I loved it as much as the books.

I can say here that John Ford has adapted Grapes of wrath pretty well. Some characters were not there but I didn’t mind much as the intention was clear. Each character was unique but everyone was naïve. They exhibit their complete naivety while burying the grampa as they write a letter saying that he died on his own. I loved the innocence in that scene; it’s so rare to find it these days. 

When Casey tells his flashback scene, an excellent one, the tractors break their house. The cut to flashback happens with tractors rolling the field super imaging with Casey’s face and if that’s not enough the director has done an excellent work here by letting the shadow of Casey’s family fall on the path that tractor has traced. It looks as if the family is put into shambles by the tractor. This is one of the scenes were Director John Ford has cleverly used the effect of shadows. 

Another scene where he shows the brilliance is when the Grampa refuses to leave home. He sits in the stairs and laments while others except Al go inside to make him coffee with some medicine which would make him drowsy. The camera focuses on grampa but it also has Al’s Shadow behind him. Generally when a director shoots a scene he only uses subject as point of interest. But here we don’t get the feeling that this scene was shot separately as Al stands and watches his grampa lament. Brilliant way of not letting the flow of film wither.

Joad is being asked whether he has escaped by almost everybody. Nice little sarcasm there. It’s only Ma who reacts sensibly by shaking hands. Rest all exclaim in happiness or in disdain like his brother. It’s only Ma who is sensible and keeps her emotion in check. Joad on other hand is a matured guy but he too finally succumbs to pressure when there is no job. He says he’ll take any job given to him.

The first scene of the Joad family gives us such pleasure in one single shot. They exhibit cheerfulness that comes  only with people who are poor, who stay in a single room where emotions are not checked, the feelings are not mutilated, the happiness not barred. They all know each other and that’s why they’re a family. They live life together.

When the Joad family leaves their house the house is shown in long shot with their cars sound in background which in turn is overlapped by heavy wind as if showing that they’ve been blown away by fate. Then while going to the bread store to get bread. I felt as if I watched a Vikraman film were everyone were good people. Pa asks for bread for which the lady in the shop refuses but his husband asks him to give it to him that too at a reduced cost. She gives it with irritation. The kids then come up and stare for candies she becomes hesitant because she knows that she couldn’t afford it so sells it for less sum without letting them know. The lorry drivers who sit there watching all this go to the lady and say why did you give it the candies for less money? She gets embarrassed and doesn’t answer. The lorry drivers pay for their coffee and go without accepting the change. The lady checks that they’ve given much more money than necessary and laughs. How beautiful it’d be if everybody understands each other. This happened here because they all are aware of each other’s plights.

But that’s just not it. Even the sheriffs are human. A police in one such scene exhibits an earthy humanity by allowing the truck to pass knowing that granma is dead. It’s very much evident when he flashes his torch light on granma’s face. Before that while taking off from side roads the truck goes on two side wheels for a moment. The whole family squeals. It was funny to watch. Ford had done a great job by taking care of all these nuances.

Uncle John and Preachers characters too are a treat to watch. Uncle John who couldn’t come out of the guilt of his wife’s death doesn’t eat when offered food, says he’s not hungry and gives the food to children who stare at the food. Preacher on the other hand feels heroic when being arrested and tries out to be a rebel which sadly he couldn’t be owing to his nature. But sows a seed and changes the mind of Tom Joad who finally becomes a rebel. Ma who always says that she doesn’t want the family to part away finally parts away with Joad knowing that its fate.

A well-made Amerian movie during great depression ends on a high with an always matter of fact Ma uttering the final dialogue of the film, “Rich fellas come up an’ they die, an’ their kids ain’t no good an’ they die out. But we keep a’comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people.” And gives us hope that someday sometime they’ll lead a happy life.

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