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How would one describe life without making references to the five senses most humans posses? Not the easiest thing to do, right? If someone had the opportunity to talk to Helen Keller before the age of seven I think she would have to agree with this statement. The first glimpses one sees of Helen can be compared to that of a modern day zombie; her arms flailing out in front of her as she wallows through the front yard grasping on to anything in front of her to make sure she does not run into the scenery. One cannot help but feel bad for the child, while not only imagining their life in her shoes. Helen overcomes unseen obstacles that change her life in a way she never thought would be possible.
Helen’s mother, father and family play a crucial role in the film. In some of the first scenes of the family gathered around and Helen, played by the actress Patty Duke, now around the age of seven, the audience gets a glimpse of what home life was like with a child that is deaf blind and basically mute. They treated her with love and care but pitied the child because of her abnormalities. The director did a good job of portraying the frustration that would entail with having to deal with someone who needed so much attention and could not live without the constant support of the people that love her. The burden was of large proportions and it is seen throughout the movie.
The family finally came to a decision of acquiring a teacher that could come and try and bring some humanity to Helen. Her name was Miss Sullivan. Miss Sullivan took on the challenge and immediately enters into the movie trying to communicate with her. One scene that sticks out is the train ride from Boston to the deep south of Alabama. This long and rigorous train ride that took multiple days was portrayed as erratic and horrific. The director wanted to show the serious life change that was about to happen in Miss Sullivan’s life. Alabama was no Boston and Miss Sullivan was about to take on the biggest challenge of her life. She would try to teach Helen the beauty of language and what its like to experience the world through words.
To say that the transitions of having someone come in and change your life in a way never dreamed of was smooth would be a lie. There were many scenes of conflict and childlike temper tantrums when Miss Sullivan would try to teach Helen words and how to have manners. The director was portraying how change does not come easy for humans. It is much easier to sit comfortably in one’s ways. It takes a strong person to change one’s ideology and make someone realize that the unknown can be filled with awe and beauty never even dreamed of. That is what Helen was about to experience the day language filled her life.
In the biography of Helen Keller, Keller states: “Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten—a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand.”(Keller, 6) On this day language finally cliqued in Helen’s brain. In the movie the audience sees the once helpless pitiful girl as someone who can communicate. The director did a wonderful job in this scene. The happiness and joy shown by Helen and the family can only melt the heart of those watching. After the long struggle between Miss Sullivan who has shown so much heart and patience with this girl, now has succeeded in what she and only she set out to accomplish from the beginning.
The set and setting of the movie takes place in the late 19th century, right after the civil war. The director gives it away when the family sometimes refers to the father of Helen as “Captain.” The movie was made well after color film was brought onto the market. Yet, the director chose to film in black and white. This brilliant move was chosen to take away one of the audience’s pleasures that most fully functioning humans can experience, which is being able to see full color. The director knew that the audience would be watching a film on a disabled child; why not disable color so the audience can relate in a small amount to Helen.
In conclusion the story of Helen Keller is truly inspiring and heartwarming. To see someone overcome such great odds when nothing was going their way could help the viewer believe that nothing is impossible. The director took on the challenge of having a main character that could not speak, listen or see and still bring the character to life. He did a wonderful job casting the characters. As the audience followed along the story, it was easy to relate with the mother, father, brother or even teacher when things would get out of hand, or the moments when things seemed to be turning around for Helen. When comparing the story to the movie there are slight differences, but the main reason is because in the story the reader is able to get inside Helen’s head; while when watching the film the director has to portray those thoughts into actions. Overall both pieces are incredibly done and should be viewed by all people to see that nothing can hold someone back if they have the will and determination to change, even when society and life are saying it cannot be done.
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