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Monster's Ball
Review of the film by Marc Forster with Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton

Get Monster's Ball on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de.
Article added on November 15, 2005

Film review
  
The film Monster's Ball is a moving masterpiece. Halle Berry delivers a stunning performance, for which she fully deserved the Oscar for Best Actress in 2002.

In the film's best scene, Halle Berry has to go through a wide array of emotions, including grief about her son's death and a raw sex scene with Billy Bob Thornton, whose character had to execute her husband a few days before. Halle's performance is realistic down to the language.

Monster's Ball is not a Hollywood fairy tale. Most of its characters are not black and white, but grey. It is, director and fellow Swiss, Marc Forster's best movie until today. It avoids clichés about the South. Being a Swiss helped him have a fresh look at the story.

Monster's Ball
is not a moralistic drama. Forster adopts a more realistic style. The scenes leading to the execution offer close ups with an almost naturalistic or documentary touch, which helps us keep a certain distance. Still, all spectators will be moved by the sublime work by cast and crew.

The film title refers to 17th century England, where, the night before the execution, they threw a party with a feast for the condemned person, called Monster's Ball.

In 2001, Monster's Ball was shot with a tiny budget in only 25 days. Cast and crew spent one week in a real maximum security prison, the Louisiana State Penitentiary Angola, where the films Dead Man Walking and Out of Sight had been shot before.

Monster's Ball offers a classic approach: parallel actions. Through parallel editing, we witness the last day of a condemned man through two perspectives: the prison guards on one side, the condemned man's wife and son on the other.

The film switches from one perspective to the other, without resolving them before the execution. The day seems endless. This impression is underlined by the music with melodies that are going nowhere and keep us waiting.

Monster's Ball is a story about the experienced Hank (Billy Bob Thornton), the captain of the death team in a prison in rural Georgia, who has to execute an African American (Sean Combs aka P. Diddy). For his son Sonny (Heath Ledger), it is a first.

The crew, doing research before filming, found out that being an executioner was a generational job, handed down from father to son. Filming in a real prison changed their preconceived ideas about people who work on death rows. They found out that a death team member has a function almost comparable to the one of a social worker, trying to offer dignity and peace to the condemned man in his final hours.

Sonny (Heath Ledger) accompanies for the first time a man to his last walk. He cannot handle the situation emotionally. Furthermore, unlike his father (Billy Bob Thornton) and grandfather (Peter Boyle), he is not a racist and has a good heart.

In the parallel action, we have the condemned man's wife (Halle Berry) and her son (Coronji Calhoun), waiting for her husband/father's last call before the execution. Halle Berry's character is struggling, tired and bitter. Leticia Musgrove had to wait eleven years for her husband to be executed. She works as a waitress. Her old car definitively breaks down and she has no money to buy a new one. Furthermore, she cannot afford to keep her small house. Finally, she is far from the image of the perfect mother. She cannot understand that her son is overeating in order to cope with the absence of his father, who is on death row.

Only after Sonny (Heath Ledger) kills himself, because his father does not love him, the character of Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) starts to open up his heart and distance himself from his racist father, whose wife killed herself, probably because she could not live in such a cold household anymore. After Leticia (Halle Berry) suffers a double loss, the two parallel actions of the correction officer and the condemned man's wife come together. Ignoring each other's identity, the two worlds merge in an unusual love story.

Marc Forster explains that Monster's Ball is a movie about healing and forgiveness. There may be a lot of destruction and drama in a person's life, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Marc Forster

Born in Ulm, Germany, in 1969 and raised in Switzerland, Marc Forster moved to NYC when he was 21. He studied Film at New York University in the early 1990s. His debut as director and screenwriter followed in 1995 with Loungers. In 2000 followed his Indie drama Everything Put Together. After Monster's Ball in 2001, he shot Finding Neverland, released in 2004, the story of Peter Pan's author J. M. Barrie, starring Johnny Depp as well as Kate Winslet and Dustin Hoffman.

Cast and Crew
 
Halle Berry..........................Leticia Musgrove (wife)
Lawrence Musgrove.........Sean Combs aka P. Diddy (husband)
Coronji Calhoun................Tyrell Musgrove (son)
Billy Bob Thornton...........Hank Grotowsky (father)
Heath Ledger.....................Sonny Grotowsky (son)
Peter Boyle.........................Buck Grotowsky (grandfather)

Marc Forster......................director
Roberto Schaefer..............director of photography

Get Monster's Ball on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de.




Get Monster's Ball on DVD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de.





Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright www.cosmopolis.ch  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.