“The Human Stain” is a film released in 2003 that became extremely popular, especially among the audience which gets used to being characterized as intellectuals. At the same time, the film is apparently interesting for the wide audience and attracts the attention of numerous viewers. The latter fact is particularly noteworthy, taking into account that the film is based on the novel written by Philip Roth. At the same time, its literary background to a significant extent explains the popularity of the film among intellectuals.
In this respect, it is worthy to note that “The Human Stain” is quite close to its literary prototype and the creators of the film have managed successfully to closely convey the writer’s concepts and vision to the viewers. However, naturally, it is impossible to speak about the film as a sort of a precise copy of the book.
Anyway, what is important is the interest the film provoke among the viewers, regardless their preferences and aesthetic views. This interest is provoked by the intrigue and secrets that practically overwhelms the film and makes it particularly interesting to discover. At the same time, the structure of the film is also quite original and involving the viewers into the events of the film and provoking their compassion to the main characters and problems they have to cope with. Furthermore, the techniques of the film are also quite interesting and contribute to the higher attention of specialists as well as ordinary viewers to “The Human Stain” as a piece of artistic work.
Life secrets and their consequences as the main intrigue of “The Human Stain”
Speaking about “The Human Stain”, it is hardly possible to remain indifferent to the main characters and their problems. In fact, the viewer remains captivated from the beginning of the film when the two main characters are crashed in a car accident. This is the way the creators of the film prefer to start the whole story. Such an unusual start stimulates certain expectations on the part of the viewers, and the expectations are, actually, not deceived.
In fact, on characterizing the entire, the mystery it is. Such a conclusion is getting to be obvious when the viewer is just starting to watch this film. Furthermore, the story is developing and new facts related to the life of the main characters, and what is even more important to their past, are revealed.
“The Human Stain” is the film based on the novel by Philip Roth and is quite close to the original literary work. This is a story of a classics professor, Coleman Silk, who has a secret that he hides his entire life practically. This secret, he did not wish to reveal was so significant that it could change his life and the viewers remain in tension until the moment this secret is eventually revealed. On the other hand, such suspense provides a possibility to think over the main character life and understand his actions and even sign the words he utters. Moreover, it is only when the secret of the professor’s life is eventually revealed, the viewers can fully understand the tragedy of his entire life and his last months in particular.
In order not to keep the readers of this paper in the tension similar to that the film provokes, it is necessary to finally reveal the mystery and say that the main secret of Coleman Silk’s life is the fact that he is African-American by origin and he has been hiding this fact for his entire life. In such a situation, it is particularly shocking that he lost his job and his wife in fact because of allegations of racism.
In actuality, he lost his job because he metaphorically referred to a couple of African-American students whom he has never seen before, as to ‘spooks,’ notably, on observing that they are permanently absent, he wondered: “Are they real, or are they spooks?”. Apparently he did not mean to abuse their dignity or self-esteem because by saying ‘spooks’ he undoubtedly implied the word ‘ghosts.’
Unfortunately, the misinterpretation of his words became fatal for his future. Soon he faced the accusation of being racist, by his words which were interpreted as racist aiming at the humiliation of absent African-American students. The situation is deteriorated when the scandal is growing, and the professor is unable to protect himself, and his explanations are simply rejected. Eventually, he lost his job, and this was the event that changed not his life but also the life of his wife who could not cope with such a drama of her husband and eventually died, being tragically influenced by such injustice.
In such a way, the main character lost his job, his future perspectives, his wife and probably the sense of life. Remarkably, in a way, the secret Coleman Silk caused these losses kept unrevealed till his last days. In all probability, if the fact concerning his African-American origin were known he would probably not be accused in racism since students would hardly attempt to seek the hidden sense in the words of their professor concerning absent students.
Thus, this episode of his life reveals the negative consequences of the secret the main character keeps from the rest of the society. However, he suffered from this secret in the past as well. For instance, it is possible to remind the epoch when Coleman Silk was young and engaged to Iris. The problem was that he did not reveal his secret and did not tell her about his heritage. He preferred to tell Iris that his parents were dead. It is noteworthy that when he told all this to his mother she ironically remarked that he looked like he was white but would have to live as a slave for the rest of his life. Moreover, when he went away, she called him a murderer.
Obviously, in the context of the latest events in his life described above, his mother’s words turned to be prophetic. At the same time, it is necessary to underline that Silk’s secret practically ruined his family life since it is impossible to believe that he could manage to reestablish normal relations with his mother and his family, and he actually did not that was obvious from the episode when his sister arrived at his funerals, and the truth about his secret was coming out. Moreover, it obviously undermines his personal life, since the engagement with Iris began with a lie and Coleman Silk did not intend to reveal the secret of his heritage.
On the other hand, it is possible to speak about the reason why Coleman Silk started to pretend that he is white and not African-American. It was at the period of his youth when he wanted to be a boxer an, on following the advice of his manager, he checked the box ‘White’ under ‘Race’ to have better perspectives. In such a way, this was the start of his lie and, in the meantime, of his problems.
The only individual who eventually revealed his secret was Faunia Farley whom he fell in love with. Symbolically he found his love when he revealed his secrets but unfortunately his love, as well as his life, had not lasted for a long time since.
Naturally, it is possible to justify his actions or not (in this respect it is necessary to remind that he began to lie about his African-American origin in the middle of the 20th century when racism was extremely strong in the American society and changes had just started) but what is more important is what was the result of his actions, i.e. the consequences of the secret he did not reveal.
Segmentation of “The Human Stain”
As for the segmentation of “The Human Saint”, it is characterized by numerous flashbacks that lead to the mixture of the episodes from the past and present. In fact, the movie begins with the scene when the professor is driving the car, and Faunia Farley is sitting close to him. Suddenly a red pick-up crosses over them, and the professor drives the car off the road into the river. This is a crucial scene that remains the viewers in suspense since they do not know whether the two in the car survived or not.
After this scene, the main character, the professor Coleman Silk is introduced. His current life is briefly described, notably his job in the college, and it is in this segment where he asks the question that has changed dramatically his life, concerning the absent students.
The following important episode, when he eventually loses his job, is his conversation with his wife Iris, who does not take the news so well as Coleman Silk does and soon, suffering a massive embolism, she dies in his arms. This event provoked the main character to seek the author Nathan Zuckerman whom he wishes to write a book about Silk’s story, emphasizing that college killed his wife.
However, Zuckerman declines the offer, so Coleman starts writing himself, and in the following scene the main character tells about his first love Steena Paulson. Remarkable, in the following segment, after the flashback concerning his first love, Coleman meets Faunia Farley, which became his last love. After the conversation in the post office, he comes upon Faunia by the side off the road and drives her to the dairy farm where she holds down the second job. Being asked why she is so busy, Faunia responds that “action is the enemy of thought”. Eventually, this evening their close physical relations begin but Faunia insists that there be no emotional involvement.
Another essential episode is when a sudden sound makes Faunia think that it is her ex-husband Les is coming around to cause trouble to her and Coleman since he considers Faunia to be a murderer for her negligence and the deaths of their children. Remarkably, both Faunia and Coleman have been at least once called murderers in their lives.
Furthermore, when Faunia ex-husband finally arrives in his red pick-up, she could not fail to tell Coleman how the children died and attempted to convince him to leave her but in vain. And it is in this scene when Coleman is getting to be emotionally attached to Faunia.
Then the episode from his past reveals the secret of the professor when he pretends to be white to become a boxer, despite the negative reaction of his father on such a decision.
After this, back in 1998, Faunia breaks her own rules and her relations with Coleman become emotionally attached. As a result, she spends a day at his home and finally, Coleman says that he has something important to tell her and at this moment the screen fades in black to show the opening scene with the accident. But this time, the viewers can see that both Coleman and Faunia are dead, and Les confesses to killing the couple.
The following scene of Coleman’s funeral is particularly important since the secret of his entire life is revealed to the public when his sister Ernestine arrives. In the conversation with Nathan, they reveal that Coleman was deeply entrenched in his lie to the extent that he did not reveal his secret even though he lost his job.
It is at this moment, where another flashback returns viewers to the past when Coleman decides to engage Iris and lies her about his parents that eventually results in his mother rejection of her son as a ‘murderer.’ Then, the flashback to the night before the accident shows that Coleman revealed his secret to Faunia.
And in the final episode, Nathan is writing the book about Coleman, entitled “The Human Stain” and, on interviews Les, the writer remains convinced of his guilt.
On discussing the film, it is also necessary to dwell upon the techniques its creators amply used. First of all, it is necessary to underline that artists starring in the film played their roles skillfully and the numerous technique used in the film were successfully accomplished by a masterful play of actors, especially Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman.
Furthermore, it is necessary to say that the film is full of flashbacks and one of the main tasks of the creators of “The Human Stain” was to convey the whole story as a comprehensible and solid unit. Obviously, the creators of the film managed to achieve this goal since the flashbacks seem to be naturally intertwined with the general line of the story.
In this respect, it is particularly noteworthy that the creators of the film have managed to create the ambiance of different epochs of the middle of the 20th century as well as of the late 20th century due to successful use of costumes appropriate to the different epochs.
At the same time, it is also necessary to underline the skillful use of light since the creators of the film had really the episodes when negative emotions dominated dark while positive emotions of the main characters seem to be naturally colored in light and bright colors.
Furthermore, the creators of “The Human Stain” paid a lot of attention to the music. The music from the middle of the 20th centuries, mainly 1920-1950s was used, though some classic music from the 19th century was used as well. In such a way, the music underlined the role of the past which was particularly important for the main characters of the film.
Thus, taking into consideration all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that “The Human Stain” is the film where the skillfully performed actors play and masterfully used film techniques provided the possibility to fully realize the potential of the literary work in the screen. In such a way, the story of the main character became a real-life drama of an individual with his particular secret which he has attempted to hide for his entire life and which caused a lot of troubles for him. It is also very important to emphasize that once the lie the main character initiates for his good eventually results in the great problems with his parents and closest relatives and even in a practically half century his secret ruins his career and kills his wife, though, is revealed, it could save both.
Consequently, the creators of the film shot a really interesting and intriguing work, which may be as thought-provoking but at the same time, interesting for the wide audience. Obviously, this is the film that a viewer can watch several times and each time he/she can reveal something new. On the other hand, the audience can easily understand the main message of the film and, probably apply it to the real life.
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