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A comparison of the book and movie called cry the beloved country by alan paton

The inequities of the recently-abolished apartheid system have provided fuel for a series of motion pictures steeped in bitterness and outrage.

Beyond the evils of the system and those who supported it, however, were issues of racial harmony and mutual tolerance -- subjects never dealt with more effectively than in Alan Paton's landmark 1946 novel, Cry, the Beloved Country.

This film, the second and better adaptation of the book, has little room for hatred or anger. Instead, its underlying tone is one of a profound grief that the title hints at.

Cry, the Beloved Country (United States, 1995)

Taken as a whole, Paton's novel promotes healing and understanding, and it speaks as powerfully to audiences today as it did when it was first published, fifty years ago. This 1995 film version is entirely faithful to its source material. At times, sections of dialogue are lifted directly from the printed page. More importantly, however, Paton's themes are brought home with devastating, soul-crushing impact through a production that captures the book's spirit as adeptly as it recounts the narrative.

There is not a false note in Cry, the Beloved Country. Every scene is an example of near-perfect composition and execution. In the aftermath of World War Two, South Africa is a divided country -- a land of growing injustice where the white man prospers through the efforts of the black man, and where the majority of the wealth is in the hands of the racial minority.

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Whites live in beautifully-constructed mansions with immaculately-groomed gardens. Blacks are often forced to eke out an existence by turning to crime and living as squatters in a shantytown. The specter of fear looms large over everything. All men, black and white alike, feel its oppressive, pervasive influence. In this climate, two very different men come to the city of Johannesburg.

Though they are both from the rural district of Natal and have a mutual dislike of city life, they have never met. The first is a black pastor, Reverend Stephen Kumalo James Earl Joneswho has left behind his poor community to make the journey in search of his son.

The second is a white landowner, James Jarvis Richard Harriswho has come to Johannesburg to bury his only child, Arthur, the victim of a shooting by three black youths, one of whom was Absalom Kumalo Eric MiyeniStephen's son.

Cry, the Beloved Country

Arthur Jarvis was a well-known activist for native rights who devoted his life to improving circumstances for the blacks of Johannesburg. Whites did not understand him; blacks embraced him. Those at the Claremont African Boys Club, where he was president, loved him not only for the money he spent on the facility, but for the time he freely gave.

In his writings, he spoke of South African whites as "tyrants, oppressors, and criminals. But Absalom Kumalo did not kill out of malice. His only defense when confronted by the police is "I was afraid; I did not mean to shoot him. Each is forced to abandon their naivete and confront the grim truths of reality. For Stephen, this means a crisis of faith and a re-assessment of his role in the world. For James, it means coming to terms with the core of his son's beliefs and seeing his own bigotry for what it is.

In the end, each gains more than he loses, yet the price of that new knowledge cuts deeply. Finely-tuned performances like these illustrate how shallow the acting is in most a comparison of the book and movie called cry the beloved country by alan paton films.

Cry, the Beloved Country (United States, 1995)

Go over a list of potential Academy Award nominees for 1995 and contrast their work to what Jones and Harris accomplish here. Few will weather that comparison favorably. Separately, these two are riveting, but their scenes together lift Cry, the Beloved Country to a higher plateau. The initial meeting between Stephen and James is one of the most potent scenes not just of the year, but of the decade.

The supporting cast is populated by lesser-known, but not necessarily lesser-talented, figures. Charles Dutton, a familiar face from recent movies and television, has a small role as John Kumalo, Stephen's political activist brother.

Leleti Kumalo, who had the lead in Sarafina! Many share in the credit for Cry, the Beloved Country's unqualified success. Screenwriter Ronald Harwood has adapted the novel with care, using voiceover narration from the book sparingly there are three instances of this: John Barry's evocative score provides the perfect accompaniment to Paul Gilpin's cinematography. Rarely does a motion picture touch the heart so deeply, with no hint of artifice or manipulation.

Producer Anant Singh has said he wanted to wait to film this version of Cry, the Beloved Country until after apartheid's death so that the new climate in South Africa could provide a more hopeful backdrop.

The timing is right, for today's circumstances quiet one of Paton's great concerns: Cry, the Beloved Country United States, 1995.