American History X was released in 1998.This is a North American film directed by Tony Kaye, which highlights the fabulous acting by Edward Furlong and the maverick Edward Norton. The film portrays the North American society of the time. It is not very different from the one we are currently experiencing. Immigration has changed the shape of our cities and resurfaced radical ideas that seemed to be dormant. These ideas are gradually entering the minds of young people.
American History Xbeginning with a black and white scene, aflashback : the moment is violent and a young neo-Nazi, Derek Vinyard, brutally murdered two young African-Americanswho were trying to steal his car. At home, his mother and two sisters are asleep. But his little brother looks at the scene in amazement.
Moments later, we return to the present, this time in color. A present where the young Daniel Vinyard, Derek's brother, seems to follow in the footsteps of his brother and presents, in high school, a presentation on theMein Kampf.Professor Sweeney then gives him a very special job to do, a work entitled "American History X": he will have to reflect on the actions of his brother.
The plot ofAmerican History Xis interesting and well put together. However, contradictory opinions have been raised about him. Some critics have accused the film of being melodramatic and have emphasized the viewer's difficulty in empathizing with Derek's character. Hard to believe that he is still the same when he comes out of prison. And the behavior of his mother and sister is not easy to understand. Can forgiveness be granted so easily?
As spectators, we can not forget the brutality of the first scene.So it is strange to think that the Derek of the end is the same as the one at the beginning.
The work of Edward Norton to embody his character is really surprising. His interpretation is splendid, believable, but something does not fit with the character.Perhaps because of the complexity of his redemption.It is difficult for us to accept his new situation, his efforts to move away from his obscure past; the film thus creates many moral doubts in the viewer and this makes him lose his credibility. Despite this,it is interesting to see the background of the ideas of the two main characters,the manipulation of which the most vulnerable suffer. And to understand, to a certain extent, why this type of hate emerges in our current societies.
Thus, between scenes of the past in black and white and scenes of the present in color, we discover the reasons that led Derek in prison and on the path of redemption. A vision linked to the transmission of ideas from generation to generation, whichmakes us think of our own prejudices and the nature of these.
Immigration and racism
Every day, we are more and more used to walking in a city and crossing people from different backgrounds, religions, cultures, etc. However, and even if we try to avoid it,there is a lot of prejudices about certain cultures, prejudices that are well anchored in our society, and even in institutions.These prejudices are extremely difficult to fight.
Every people has its cultural identity. We all like to feel that we are part of a whole. It is normal to defend our customs, our language and our culture; we want that to continue,that what our parents and grandparents have passed on to us does not disappear. Therefore, when we see that the idea we have of "our world" falters, that it begins to disappear, some conflicts may arise. In the worst case, they can bring out ideas that only lead to hatred.
American History Xplaces us in a neighborhood of hardworking people, a neighborhood where, over time, people from different backgrounds have settled. Many of them are condemned to marginality,and this is a fact that usually happens in our cities. This mass arrival provokes a reaction of the native population, a reaction of rejection and hatred. In parallel, the immigrants reject the population of the place because they have become marginal: hatred spreads between the two camps, making any integration and any relationship impossible.
After the death of his father, Derek will blame the black and Latino population for his death and for all the problems of society. From there, his vision of the world will changeand lead him to bond with Cameron, a middle-aged man and Nazi ideology.
Cameron sees Derek as a frustrated young man, a vulnerable game but with a lot of potential.He is intelligent and very angry with all ethnic minorities. The man will take advantage of this situation and will give him the task of directing his own "army", a group of young people.skinheadssimilar to Derek who do justice to themselves.
In the same way, we will see a reaction from the black side: young people from both groups will create bands where violence will be fundamental.The most interesting is that Cameron, the mastermind of the whole operation, will always stay away. He will never dirty his hands and will only manipulate the young people or organize parties.All this so that they cling to his ideas and they act violently because they have decided it themselves.
American History X: from executioner to victim
Danny idolized Derek even though he was in prison for murder. The group ofskinheadshe was leading became stronger and they all consider Derek a hero.However, while all praise his merits in his former environment, Derek turns into "Black" upon his arrival in prison. He will suffer abuse from other prisoners and will try to find his place among the whites.
In prison, Derek joins a group of neo-Nazis. However, he will soon realize that they do not believe in anything, that their ideology is not very powerful and that it is only a mere facade.At the same time, he will work at the laundromat with an African-American young man who tries to make his daily life a little less difficult.
Derek will represent otherness when arriving in prison. He will live and endure all the violence and abuse that he himself has done to other people because of their skin color or their origin. This is how he will attain redemption, with the help of Professor Sweeney's visits. Of course,he can not resurrect the two people he killed, but he can make his brother follow another path.When he comes out of prison, he will have to face the harsh reality he has left behind and will try to help his brother so that he does not make the same mistakes.
We think with ideas inherited and transmitted from generation to generation, we have an emotional connection with our origins, we do not want our cultural identity to disappear.At the same time, social policies do not promote positive integration; conflicts arise with the arrival of new cultures. However, our history, our world, is the result of migratory movements, cultural exchanges, linguistic, etc.
American History Xreveals the truth behind Derek's ideas. How they were inherited from his father and strengthened with the help of Cameron.Tragic, violent and raw, he presents to us the most radical consequences of a reality that is not unknown to us.
"Hate is a bastard, life is too short to spend your time having hatred".
–American History X-