September 15, 2014
John De Frank
Throughout the history of film making, many topics have been deemed controversial. Filmmakings, like many other entertainment mediums, have taken risks when choosing to use controversial topics. Some topics, which may be frowned upon, or considered to be taboo, include those pertaining to sexual orientation, religion, culture differences, politics, sex, and many others. One such film, which was produced in 1994 using known actors, Tom Hanks, and Denzel Washington, was Philadelphia.
When viewing the film, Philadelphia, one must keep in mind the year it was produced. Though AIDS had been recognized by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the early 1980s, many individuals were still unfamiliar with the illness. The film is an atypical drama that two attorneys who are competitors from different firms when the movie begins. One of the attorneys, Andrew Beckett, believes he was dismissed from his law firm because the firm discovered he had AIDS. He teams up with his opposing attorney, Joe Miller, who happens to be homophobic, to determine if the case was based on wrongful dismissal. Miller accepts the responsibility to represent Beckett in a lawsuit against the law firm for AIDS discrimination. The two attorneys develop a friendship that enables them to overcome prejudice. As the film goes on, Beckett’s illness is shown to progress by the use of excellent makeup artistry. The makeup was done to show Beckett appearing healthy in the beginning and eventually to an ill man whose body deteriorating and wasting away. At some point in the film, Beckett is shown in a hospital setting and infusion center where actors used appropriate costumes portraying nurses and physicians and were dressed accordingly to the scene.
The film Philadelphia, targeted homosexuality, homophobia, and the stigma surrounding individuals afflicted with HIV/AIDS. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington portray adversaries who are both conflicted with personal issues. Tom Hanks' character, Andrew Beckett, was keeping his personal lifestyle, illness, and sexual orientation a secret from his employers. Denzel Washington's character, Joe Miller, struggled with his fear of Aids and homophobia while trying to do what he believes is the correct thing to do in upholding the law. Together, viewers are also exposed to a biracial relationship as Beckett is Caucasian, and Miller is African American. In the film, the viewer can see how others perceive those who are infected with AIDS. During the scene when Beckett goes to Miller's office seeking to be represented, Miller asks Beckett what happened to his face. When Beckett replied he had AIDS, Miller quickly proceeded to step back and distance himself. After sitting down, Miller was noticing everything that Beckett touched and where his belongings were placed. Miller's discomfort was very obvious, and when he declined to represent Beckett, one could see the disappointment Beckett experienced when the camera showed a close up shot of his face.
Philadelphia did an excellent job at showing the progression of time and of Beckett’s illness. The director used music and lighting to aid the viewer in comprehending the emotions being portrayed by the actors. The music used was primarily slow with long notes, giving the impression of sadness and impending doom. Toward the end of the film, Beckett and Miller are in the living area of Beckett's home reviewing the case. As Miller works on documents and tries to explain the next day's agenda in court to Beckett, Beckett points out the music playing. At the time, Beckett is listening to an opera song that he tells Miller to listen to, explaining that he does not believe he will be around to see the outcome of the trial. The lighting, camera angle, and shots used were focused on the emotions of both characters. The director used an above shot on Beckett and circled him using the lighting with a red