What is the central theme of Chinatown and what key symbols and motifs are used to develop this theme? Fashioned as a great film nior the 1974 classic; Chinatown is a crime drama in which central themes coincide with the idea that the world is an inherently corrupt place where men of vice conquer over the helplessness of the innocent and ignorant. Plot, characters, and setting mark this piece as a neo film nior. However it is the use of pessimistic tone, also found common in many film niors, that sets to assist develop the central themes through common motifs and symbols.
The motifs within the film include the ignorance to truth, an inescapable past, and a daunting fate. We also find abstract ideas within the symbolism Chinatown itself. The term motif may be defined as recurring structures, contrast, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the major themes. With in Chinatown we find that the characters are ignorant to the point in which they are unable to see the truth. Each character is surrounded and involved to some degree within the corruption that leads to there down fall.
The protagonist of the film J. J. Gttes ( Jack Nicklson), a former police officer of chinatown turned private investigator in a neighboring town, spends the majority of the film investigating a murder only to find that once he has discovered the murderer that the police are corrupt as they turn a blind eye. Gittes is ignorant to the fact that not only in Chinatown money is power and those with in power stand above the law. The intertwining of the past and fate that parallel corruption also are used as a motif.
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The past haunts just about every character to the point that they are unable to overcome the adversity of the corruption of the world. It is the past and secrecy of the past the past that becomes the undoing of Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), which in turn once again lets the corruption of her father prevail. Symbols within the film include Chinatown. Chinatown is not only the place from Gittes past that haunts him but is also the symbol for corruption in a ity. As lawlessness runs rampant and justice is silenced by those in power. The only scene to take place in Chinatown is the final scene in which the story unravels to show the corrupt Noah Cross (John Huston) triumphant as he gets away with fraud, incest, and murder. Filmed during a time of political unrest director Polanski film Chinatown may be used as a commentary on the corruption in the institutions that are suppose to provide for the well being of all.
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