Gavin Hood produced a film that comments on the struggle to maintain social norms in sub-standard socio-economic circumstances. First we asses Totsi’s standard of living, then explore the poverty cycle of which Totsi is a part and thirdly comment on the way in which film techniques enhance this topic. Lastly we compare the environmental circumstances through analysis of topic.
Initially, after analyzing Totsi’s standard of living, we can understand the motivation behind his actions. Totsi lives in a squatter camp where people queue for water and have only basic shelter and comfort. There is no sense of pride in his home. This is shown by the dim light and gloomy atmosphere within Totsi’s room and is supported by the sound of hooting taxi’s and kwaito music that is heard from outside. Totsi lives without luxuries and entertainment includes drinking and dancing at the shabeen. This suggests that Totsi lives a mundane life and this form of entertainment triggers aggression. The kwaito music at the shabeen provokes emotion and negative feelings are usually expressed. The standard of living makes life a struggle and lack of appreciation for life. It provides an excuse for crime, as expressed when the shot of Totsi living in the concrete tunnel is shown before the robbery. Totsi ‘has not yet learnt to drive’ since he cannot afford a car and travels by taxi it is not necessary that he knows how to drive. The lack of resources in the environment makes it difficult to maintain social norms.
Additionally, when we explore the ongoing cycle of poverty, it is visible that values shift and morals change. Living in poverty and having no money makes education a luxury. Many children won’t have an education and instead of attending school they join gangs, resulting in a lack of morals. Lack of education and morals leads to low employment and financial crisis. Healthcare is limited and the sickly do not have support. Morris is crippled and must survive on small change that he manages to collect, but he lives only ‘to feel the sun on his hands’. People like Boston turn to substance abuse to escape their issues or debts. A drunken person is unreliable and loses his decency. Totsi’s father was a drunk and became aggressive. Totsi could not ‘live this way’ and ran away from home out of desperation. The thunder and stormy weather enhanced this desperation. The technique used is called pathetic fallacy and it is effective because the weather reflects the emotion. The desperation and lack of guidance or direction leads to crime. Crime is unacceptable but it becomes a way of life and basic values such as decency changes from ‘having respect for yourself and others’ to ‘making a fucking decent living’. The murder scene on the train is well filmed. The hand held camera creates a feeling of involvement and the viewer is afraid. Living a life of crime leads to an unstable income and raising a family in poverty is the beginning of the cycle. The cycle of poverty is almost impossible to fall out of and the sense of desperation causes one to detract from socially acceptable behavior and morals.