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The Film the Trial as Example of Illogical Court Proceedings: What Makes a Legal System Fair or Unfair?

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Autor:   •  March 8, 2018  •  Essay  •  878 Words (4 Pages)  •  119 Views

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The Film The Trial as Example of Illogical Court Proceedings: What Makes a Legal System Fair or Unfair?

        The film The Trial (1962) by Orson Welles, based on the novel of the same name written by Franz Kafka, puts into question the relationship between law and justice. Naturally, when one thinks of law one often pairs it with justice; if there is an unfair or unjust act, society will expect to be able to get the law overturned by appealing to the regulations of justice. Nonetheless, when speaking about this subject it has to be kept in mind that law is a very abstract ideal. Taking this into account the film could be considered as an allegory, because rather than giving the viewer an actual political issue, the film gives just the bare struggle of one person against a not mentioned law, but just the law in general. The main character is faced with a court which is just the human and bureaucratic embodiment of this law. Since the law is such an abstract expression of justice, it seems to be unfair and inhuman; therefore, the court is portrayed as being equally unfair and inhuman. With this, one can appreciate one of the many paradoxes of the law. Law and justice are frequently mistaken as being one and the same; however, this is false and even though the two have a relationship, they cannot be considered as the same. With this in mind, it is difficult to think how law can be unjust or unfair when it is supposed to be the expression of justice and it is supposed to protect all the people in a society in the same way

        It is common knowledge that law is derived from experience and logic; that it has rules in order to be applied, penalties for its violation, and remedies for those affected. Yet it usually is unpredictable, slow, unnecessarily complicated some times, and selectively enforced other times (Cohen, 2014). Furthermore, there are paradoxes which make law even more enigmatic. One of the biggest, and perhaps the most evident paradox in the film, is that law cannot just exist in abstraction; it needs the court in order to function; therefore, as the court is run by human beings it inevitably corrupts the law. The idea of a jury trial, like the one seen in the film, is that a person is being assessed by their peers; people from their community who judge them based on the morals of their society. The jury system should ensure that the law is applied so that it fits with what society expects. Furthermore, the law is full of terms such as “reasonable” and “equal” and the jury has to give those terms an actual meaning that fits with what would be considered the normal understanding of the terms and of what is thought to be acceptable behavior (Love, 2014). However, this system works assuming there is a consensus in society on what makes reasonable behavior or what constitutes an act of wrongdoing, so that asking only a small group of people will usually end in very similar results each time. In addition to this, it is also worth thinking about whether juries can be trusted to make decisions which are not based on prejudice, whether that is based on the appearance or background of the person being judged or simply assuming that they are guilty because they are being charged. This can be seen on the film on several different occasions.


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