The Manchurian Candidate By Johnathan Demme

1434 words - 6 pages

The Manchurian Candidate, Johnathan Demme directed the remake. Both films portray paranoia, mind control, and conspiracy. Frankenheimer utilizes satire, humor, and symbolism to convey the themes, whereas, Demme uses modern fears, camera angles and focus, and mental illness to achieve similar results.
Many of the elements of the 2004 remake have been modernized. While the original movie placed the soldiers in Korea, the remake placed them in Kuwait. Demme did changed the location of the war, in order to appeal to current fears and suspicions. In 1962, the threat of communism was at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. However, during 2004, only three years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, citizens were no longer concerned about communists, but rather about the Middle East. If Demme did not change the setting to Kuwait, the movie would not instill the same fear as it did in the original movie, “by outfitting the superbly insinuating basic story with a battery of up-to-the-minute concerns that readily feed on present fears and suspicions, Demme... inject[s] new life into a recently dormant genre - the paranoid thriller” (McCarthy). Raymond Shaw’s mother, Eleanor, was also given a more modern job in the remake; instead of merely being the wife of the senator who leads behind the scenes, in the remake she is the one who is the senator. Her role depicts the emerging role of women in modern politics. Demme also chose to give Major Marco’s girlfriend, Rosie, a more modern and important job as an FBI agent. By modernizing the film, Demme allows the contemporary audience to be able to better relate and understand the film.
Dark humor and satire were present in the original film, in order to provide a break from the intensity and paranoia. David Sterritt, Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor, stated that “while both go in for grotesquerie, Frankenheimer indulged this in the form of dark humor - making the brainwashed American soldiers hallucinate so that they see Asian enemies as ladies at a garden party”. The film switches between perspectives of the ladies garden party and the communist officials to stress the comic surrealism of the situation. The calm and genteel ladies garden party is a stark contrast to the evil plotting of the communists. Image overlay as well as soft lighting are also used to convey the surrealism and dreamlike quality. The absurd way that Eleanor’s husband, Senator Iselin, presents the supposed number (which he is constantly changing) of communists in the state department, satirizes the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Many of the accused communists during the red scare were merely from wild speculation caused by irrational fear and political movements to get rid of the opposition. It was also ironic that Eleanor, who had her husband present the fake number of communists, was actually the communist herself. The role of a mother is also satirized in the film. The 1950’s portrayed mothers as pure and wholesome, however Eleanor...

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