BySteph Fitch, writer at Creators.co
Professor of Film Studies @ BCTC
Steph Fitch
Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde
Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde

""They're young, they're in love...and they kill people." - Tagline for Bonnie and Clyde.

On August 13th, 1967, Hollywood witnessed a revolution that still continues, the existence of a youth audience that would patronize films that reflected their own anti-establishment values. Just like the real attitude of Bonnie and Clyde, who were anti-establishment, which during the height of the depression, was a view of a lot of Americans. The film also ushered in a new era of films, that still resonate with today's Audience with films like True Romance, Natural Born Killers, . The film introduced extreme and graphic violence into the culture of film. Bonnie and Clyde was a groundbreaking film, and is called by some, one of the most important films in American history.

The violence starts with a man being shot in the face by Clyde as he clings to the getaway car. The man's face spews blood, and pieces of brain splatter onto the car window. After shooting the man, Clyde is visibly shaken. Clyde says he didn't want to do it, but had to giving the viewer insight into how reluctant Clyde and Bonnie are initially to killing. However, in the movie, as the time passed, both the characters and the viewers became more accustomed to the gratuitous violence.

One of the scenes that is most notable in cinematographic history for graphic violence occurs when Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down in dramatic fashion at the end of the movie. The couple is ambushed and riddled with bullets as they stop to help change a tire for Moss' father. Both characters are machine gunned down, their bodies literally "riddled with bullets." This scene defines the new era of violence and Hollywood. It would not have been possible ten even five years earlier. Arthur Penn set the stage for the new genre of a action and violence. Maybe it was the news in every home, maybe it was the true life picture of Bonnie and Clyde's death that inspired him.

The Car after Bonnie and Clyde's shoot out
The Car after Bonnie and Clyde's shoot out

Penn uses the depression and the lost youth of Bonnie and Clyde and their guns to convey the senseless violence that American youth was walking into with the Vietnam War. Which, like the depression, they had no choice to fight, but were drafter by the establishment. Penn is skillful at making the connection for the youth of Bonnie and Clyde being gunned down in their primes and youth to the young American soldiers going over to fight and die in Vietnam. It wasn't our war, we didn't celebrate the heroes. They were forced to fight, and like Bonnie and Clyde, the people that fought the establishment made the headlines as criminals.

America in the 1960's saw an increases of violence, and even if it didn't effect you, it was in your home on the tv. America's youth heroes were gunned down, Malcolm X, President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy, Martin Luther King. Penn takes a historical event and turns it into a piece that relates the current time and the issues America is facing. Though, I think it was the perfect story to tell at this time. Bonnie and Clyde were "sexy criminals" and heroes of their times, they took Kodak pictures, seeming to love their life and freedom of choice. It was the perfect vehicle to introduce the new era.

The Real Bonnie and Clyde
The Real Bonnie and Clyde
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