Traditionally, media play an extremely important role in the life of society. Today, the impact of mass media seems to be overwhelming. At the same time, many people are unconscious of this fact and ignore the fact that they can be easily mislead by mass media, especially if they believe the information they receive from media blindly. In this respect, “Shadow of a Doubt”¯ and “Saboteur”¯ are films which reveal the misleading effect of media and their power.
However, the creators of both films reveal the fact that media constitute only a part of the life of our society and people still can define their own life and struggle against prejudices and biases of the society which are promoted by media.
On analyzing both films, it is worth mentioning the fact that the creators of the film do concentrate their attention solely on media. They also pay a lot of attention to the language of their characters as well as writing. In fact, both films highlight the existing means of communication amply and reveal the potential of human communication. At the same time, a remarkable feature of both films is the fact that their creators reveal the inability of people to communicate effectively. What is meant here is the fact that the main characters of “Shadow of a Doubt”¯ and “Saboteur”¯ have their own secrets, but they cannot reveal them to the public. The main character of “Shadow of a Doubt”¯, Charlie cannot reveal the fact that her uncle is a serial murder because the promulgation of this fact would be a disgrace for her family. In fact, she understands that if people know about the crimes committed by her uncle, her own family will be ruined, while all the people in the community will condemn not only the uncle but also the whole family. As a result, the main character faces a choice between telling the truth and saving her family and herself from the public condemnation and isolation which were likely to follow her confession.
In this respect, it should be said that the film reflects such a doubts and internal struggle of the main character through the language of the film. In fact, the entire film is full of hints and suspensions, when characters do not tell the truth directly, but, instead, the truth is either implicit or hidden at all. Characters rather prefer to tell what other people want to hear, hiding the real sense of their message. In such a way, many conversations and dialogues in the films become just attempts to speak but not telling anything really meaningful and significant, which can reveal the secret of the main character or, to put it more precisely, the secret of her uncle.
At this point, “Saboteur”¯ is similar to “Shadow of a Doubt”¯ because the language being rather formal and at times semantically elevated still makes the truth evade from the audience and characters themselves. However, unlike the main character of “Shadow of a Doubt”¯, the main character of “Saboteur”¯, Barry Kane, attempts to convince all the people around him that he is not innocent in the crime he is suspected in, but it seems as if no one listens to him.
Paradoxically, people speak one and the same language but they totally misunderstood each other. But, unlike “Shadow of a Doubt”¯, where characters intentionally hide the truth and use their language to meet this principal goal, the main character of “Saboteur”¯ suffers from the unwillingness of other people to listen and trust him. All his arguments turn to be useless and too weak to beat the public opinion and change the attitude of people to him, as a criminal.
In this respect, it is important to underline the role of media, especially print media in the life of main characters of both films as well as in the life of the American society at large. In fact, Barry is a suspect in the crime, which he did not actually commit. People believe that he started the fire at the plant, though it was Fry who actually committed this crime. Unfortunately, Kane is the main suspect and police informed the media about it that was almost a sentence to the main character because his photos were printed in all newspapers and all people believed that he was a criminal (Lewis, 2003). In such a way, the film shows the impact of the media on the public opinion because by means of media an innocent people was transformed into a dangerous criminal, while the true criminal had never been mentioned by either newspaper or in any news report. As a result, the main character turns out to be alone in his struggle against the true criminal and he has to protect his dignity and prove his innocence through finding Fry on his own and, what is more, he is forced to overcome the pursuit of police and public prejudices.
The role of media in “Shadow of a Doubt”¯ is not less significant, but it is a bit different. Unlike in “Saboteur”¯, where media do not accuse a wrong man in the commitment of a crime he has never committed, in “Shadow of a Doubt”¯ media amply inform the public about terrible crimes, serial murders, which make the public aware of a great danger an unknown criminal exposes the local community to. In such a way, media contribute to the development of a public hysteria in face of a potential threat of becoming a victim of a serial murderer. However, in actuality, media do not attempt to investigate the case in depth, they do not have suspects, but still they frighten, if not to say, terrorize the public constantly giving people details of terrible crimes committed by the unknown murderer (Spoto, 1999).
Eventually, media turned the public so hysteric and spread the panic to the extent that the main character, being conscious of the fact that her uncle is a murderer, cannot reveal this fact and tell the truth about his uncle because the public will ruin her family and she, as well as members of her family, will be unable to lead a normal life. In this respect, it is important to underline that it was the media which were responsible for such unwilling complicity of Charlie since she hides the truth about her uncle.
Obviously, both films reveal the huge impact of media on the public opinion and, what is more, both films prove the fact that the interference of media or high attention of media to crimes can prevent police from objective investigation of the crime. Instead, they form a very negative public opinion in relation not only to criminal but also to an ordinary suspect, who by no means is a criminal, unless the court rules that he/she is. In addition, media make the life of the main character unbearable since they either cannot tell the truth, as Charlie does, or no one believes them, as people do in relation to Barry.
In such a way, both “Shadow of a Doubt”¯ and “Saboteur”¯ can be viewed as warnings to the public since they show people that they cannot trust media pointblank. Instead, people should be confident of the possibility of error or misinterpretation of some facts by media, especially in relation to crimes. At the same time, the creators of both films were apparently aware of the growing impact of media in the life of the American society. What was even more important, they understood possible negative effects of the increased significance of media in the life of ordinary Americans since media could make the life of any American unbearable or, at least, affect the life of an individual dramatically.
Thus, in conclusion, it is possible to say that “Shadow of a Doubt”¯ and “Saboteur”¯, being quite different films, still have a lot of similarities. In this respect, the problem of the confidence of people, the problem of trust and mutual understanding are central problems since the main characters of both films have to confront and overcome the hostile attitude of the public.