American History X is a powerful movie in any right made more powerful by choices that director Tony Kaye made for the movie. Kaye takes the reader from a range of emotions from hate and disgust to genuine hope for Derek and his family. He also makes us understand how racism and prejudice are taught on a daily basis by seemingly harmless comments. Then, this emotion can become twisted when someone becomes vengeful over the circumstances of his life. The basic plot of a white supremist who ends up turning his life around although too late for his little brother is made even more powerful by choices in music, cinematography effects, and writing.
The music choices are particularly powerful and lend themselves to the theme of the movie. The very first song called American History X is rather a haunting hymnal-type song and opens up the movie with an ominous scene of a beach and the tide ebbing and falling. Most of the music is of a classical, hymnal type without lyrics. This makes the dramatic scenes all the more dramatic. The songs either make a triumphant statement on the spirit and lift one’s spirits just by hearing the music or they emphasize the extreme danger of the thinking involved. For example, the song called “The Right Questions” is very dramatic and lifting as to show that Derek and Danny are learning to ask the right questions and not follow Cameron unflinchingly. They are learning how to question what they are told and think for themselves. “We Are Not Enemies” is such a beautiful and powerful song. It makes a person feel strong just listening to it. And the ending called “Benedictus” could move someone to tears by listening and fits well since it symbolizes Danny’s tragic and meaningless death. The only song with lyrics in the whole movie is the white supremist, piece of trash song that is playing while Derek’s ex-friend is driving down the road. This song is full of absolutely hateful epithets and allows the viewer to see the extreme violence and hateful nature of this entire way of life.
The effects of cinematography are particularly powerful as well. The most powerful effect of the movie is the telling of various parts in alternating black and white with color sections. The movie begins with the murder that sends Derek to jail. As the movie goes on, the viewer is then told the rest of the story about how he got to that point through the flashback technique with all scenes in black and white. Derek is, at that point, a white supremist, and his view of the world is very narrow. When the movie flashes back to what Derek experiences in prison and how he changes as result of this experience, the scenes are in color. Derek literally transforms before the viewer’s eyes and begins to look at life from a less “black and white perspective.” His viewpoint opens up and he realizes that the very narrow way that he lived was wrong. Nothing is as simple as it first appeared. People are not bad or good based on color. He realizes that life is about content, not color, and he can no longer abide by his old beliefs. The beginning and ending of the movie are also made more powerful by shots of the beach with the tide rising and falling as life does. These shots show that life goes on no matter what and the actions that are taken are unable to be taken back.
The last factor that makes this movie fantastic is the costuming or in some cases the lack of costuming has been solved all by megashare9 custom scene dresses that eventually saved the pack-up of shoot. The crudeness and coarseness of the characters is shown by all the scenes where men don’t wear shirts and their tattoos are prominent. In the scene where Derek kills the black man, he is in nothing but boxers and his swastika tattoo is prominent. Later, as the movie turns to color, the viewer sees the swastika less and less. In one scene, Derek looks in the mirror after a shower and takes his hand and puts it over the tattoo to give us our first glimpse of what he might look like as a “normal” person. Then, the viewer sees him in street clothes rather than the “goth” look of the other white supremacist. The slide that Derek’s family takes after the death of his father is also shown in the way the family dresses and appears. This is crucial because after his father dies, he is much more susceptible to the views of the group of white supremacist. The contrast between the “average” family and Derek’s family is clearly shown through dress.
By the use of music, effects of cinematography, and costuming, the main ideas of American History X are powerfully underscored. Tony Kaye makes some powerful choices in this movie to show how someone’s mind becomes so warped with hatred as to become prey to the white supremist groups out there. Amazingly, Kaye takes Derek who has committed this deplorable act, and the viewer ends up likening him and rooting for him. The movie ends by showing the viewer what a useless emotion hate is.