12 ANGRY MEN AND THE THEORY OF CONSENSUS BUILDING

I believe 12 Angry Men to be one of the best scripted movies of all time. Looking at it deeply, it has a lot more to offer than just being a top ten IMDB movie. Henry Fonda’s perspective and how he used words and words alone to turn the tide in his favour or to remove prejudice from a non-personal assessment. This has no drama, mystery, theatrics or special effects – a simple story that can be easily absorbed by any living soul on earth.

I have watched it in Hindi as well and the content serves justice to its Hollywood original and the screenplay justifiably written for Indian audiences.


THE PREMISE OF THE MOVIE

Twelve men from different backgrounds, cultural upbringing, personalities and of different temper levels are part of the jury – and they are in a room to come to a reasonable conclusion. The jury must be unanimous in its decision and until then it is all a consensus building exercise. The case in hand is to decide the fate of a teenager who is guilty of murder his father – and after having heard the testimonies and other ‘supposed evidences’, it is now in the hands of the jury to give the final verdict.

In the enclosed room are these twelve men seated and eleven of them are convinced the boy is guilty – and are surprised to see Henry Fonda’s lone hand going in favour of not-guilty. It isn’t a case of James Dean’s ‘To Rebel With a Cause’, here the standpoint of Henry Fonda has a lot of sense. It is after all a matter of life and death and these 12 men cannot be haste in making such a decision. Henry Fonda has a ‘doubt’ and unless he is convinced otherwise he would present his arguments. There emerges a change in thinking of his fellow jurors – one by one convinced otherwise.  

It is interesting to note how time and discussions change opinions even among many learned ones. And one by one, the jurors are convinced it isn’t a straight forward case. In the middle of intense heat, there were heated discussions with egos coming in the way of clear thinking and side arguments comes in the way of the main discussion. And by the end of it all – these 12 men have a considerable amount of doubt to deliver a unanimous ‘not guilty’ verdict.

HOW I SEE THE RELEVANCE IN TODAY’S WORLD
One of the patterns that emerged from 12 Angry Men is – that, one is never far away from expressing his personal standpoint be it on any matter. This is what I call as ‘the interpretation syndrome’ – where two different people or a group of people look at the same thing in different ways. Our world is no different – each one is able to express their opinions and plenty of them are available on the internet, newsroom and print media – and more so with the people I converse. Is it a life’s mystery that we eternally fight for the ultimate truth? or there is no such thing as one truth? Or is life or society all about a series of consensus building exercise which over the years gave raise to systems, rules, practices, religions and their million interpretations. The world we live in is so huge – that there was means to run away from one group only to settle in other place and form another group. What if we bring in all the newsmakers (not just the leaders of the state) under a single roof and discuss till there is consensus building – to reach a common ground from where people from all the beliefs can move on with renewed perspectives and lead a life which humans deep down strive for.

I just laughed reading at the last sentence about the level of optimism I am expecting! I think what I am asking is too far away from the banal lives we lead or am I? However, this was a recurring thought that comes to my mind whenever I hear and watch disturbing stories each day. Are we just plain reporting or doing something to end it?  What is the end that justifies everybody? Or have we already concluded – that this is the way… this is how it should end… 

The more I think positively, there is a hint of cynicism that creeps into that thought. So I am stuck… can we have some consensus building thoughts please!!!! 

Kiss Them for Me

In my opinion there was a void among war heroes as they battled day and night in places away from home. In a certain way, it was the call of duty more than willingness to battle it out. While some of them took pride fighting it out, there were many who wanted the war to finish and return home. If the craving indeed gets worse, few men did take a chance to get back home while on duty. Kiss them for me, is a comical version of how three navy men, tired of war want to when the war was on.
Cmdr Andy Crewson played by Cary Grant convinces his two colleagues to go away from navy base for a rest. Home sickness coupled with being away from loved ones made them rusty to have such a run away plot. They all land up in San Francisco and with the help of Lieutenant Wallace; they manage to get a luxury posh suite in a famous hotel.
Andy manages to gather the party crowd and all looks like a great party time. Girls, alcohol, no war, life outside of being a navy pilot were better.

Wallace in order to maintain relations with top businessman arranges for a meeting with Andy and the shipyard owner Eddie Turnbill. Turnbill wants to promote his war ships and to increase and motivate his fellow workers, requested Andy and his two decorated pilots to give a small talk at his factory. Andy refused and even embarrassed Eddie, but considering Eddie had good relations with the Admiral, he reversed his stand upon insistence of his friends who convince him. Helping Eddie would allow their leaves extended without having to spend the ‘vacation’ in a navy hospital for check ups.
While Turnbill is happy making plans for the talk, Andy sets his eyes on Eddie’s fiancée Gwinneth Livingston, played by the stunning Suzy Parker. Gwinneth as evident from the first scene is an epitome of an unhappy woman who is in need of a stable life. Yet, in search of love, she isn’t quite in good terms with her relationship with Eddie. It was as though, love could blow away the relationship with Eddie. She ensures this point of hers is well expressed to Andy.
Instead of turning up and talk to labours, Andy decides to spend the night with Gwinneth and takes her out to a music bar and a restaurant. He was here to enjoy his vacation, not talk about war. Andy meets his old friends from war, one handicapped and gets to know he has few days left. He is in a strange mood wondering he did the right thing running away from war while a lot of his country men are fighting it out.
His two friends talk to labours on his behalf and this didn’t go well with Eddie, fumingly tries to create a scene. Andy confronts Eddie and gives a blow instead of talking. Gwinneth breaks up with Eddie and joins Andy. Love is it.
Party time is over guys as Eddie turns up the heat and ensures the holiday is cancelled. In the meantime, Lt Mc Cann gets the ticket to join Congress and he takes his two friends on board for this mission. The two friends get the call of war from inside; decide to join the navy instead. Mc Cann was not to be left behind; he gives up the ticket and joins his two friends.
Suzy Parker in her role as Gwinneth makes her movie debut in an acting performance in a grand style. Previous was a cameo in the movie ‘Funny Face’. Her beauty is the main strength in this movie, as her voice was given by another stunning actress of that era, Deborah Kerr. A special mention of Jayne Mansfield, who in the role of dumb blonde, makes a good impression and in major way imitates Monroe with her looks and talks. She is often mentioned as the poor man’s ‘Marilyn Monroe’ in reel and real life. Jayne’s character Alice Kratzner defines the title of the movie very aptly. In memory of her war husband in the movie, he tells her “Look me in all the war heroes and Kiss them for me”.
Famous for the song of the same name as the movie title by The McGuire Sisters, this 1957 Stanley Donen directed movie is a good watch about the back stage lives of war pilots.

An Affair To Remember

What happens when a handsome playboy meets the gorgeous night club singer on a cruise. The first part of this Leo MaCarey’s classic ‘An Affair to Remember’ showcases the above scenario. Cary Grant as Nickie Ferrante plays the playboy and Debroah Kerr plays the dashing Terry Mckay.

Despite both being engaged, they couldnt help themselves falling in love with each other on the ship and make a promise to meet after six months at The Empire State Building.
With engagements being on hold, both wait for six months to see each other on the 102nd floor of the building. A perfect story in progress until Debroah Kerr meets with an accident right on the day of the visit. Cary Grant ambling to and fro on the 102nd floor can only console himself. He waits the entire day…. and wonders why till the end of the movie.
The discussion was whether they would get married would remain unanswered and accident becomes the reason that prevents the reunion of the couple.
The story was quite a drama back then, not the same when it was made in Hindi in 1999. One can copy the theme, not the entire storyline and scene settings. ‘Mann’ starring Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala failed, because, it wasnt able to connect to the so called “modren-time” and the content not convincing. Times change, hence certain perceptions on love change. Unfortunately, Mann wasnt able to accomadate this change.


The highlights are the scenes shot in a garden mansion where Cary Grant takes Debroah Kerr to meet her grandmother. Their love blossomed at the very place. The last scene is a memorable one, when Cary Grants holds Debroah Kerr.



This movie is a remake of the 1939 movie ‘Love Affair’ starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. Both directed by Leo MaCarey.

Released in 1957, An Affair to Remember was nominated for four Oscars in the Best Music, Best Costume, Best Song and Best Cinematography categories.