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Movie Review: Papillon

Updated on March 6, 2013

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The movie starts by setting a serious, tension-filled tone as soldiers are shown walking silently with prisoners.The silence is briefly broken by a woman on the side of the line that says to the character, “Papillon, you’ll be back!” and a fellow prisoner next to him says “No you won’t.” That statement was relevant throughout the movie as all Papillon wanted to do was be free and he did eventually escaped from the isolated island at the end of the movie.This showed that some people just cannot be tamed, while others (like his friend Louis Dega) are satisfied as long as they have decent living conditions.

Papillon was even put in a silent camp in order to be released quicker.The use of shadows while he was in the prison was remarkable.It really gave the viewer the idea of how dreary and boring being in the silent camp was.There was also the use of repeat scenes when Papillon was first put in the prison and stuck his head out of the door to see a man who looked horrible asking “How do I look?I feel alright, but how do I look?”Papillon stares oddly at the man and blatantly lies to him saying he looks fine.Later on in the movie, after Papillon becomes malnourished due to cut rations in the silent prison, he starts to become delirious and looks just as bad as that man.He sticks his head out of the door and says to a new man that was in the same prison cell as the other terrible looking man, implying that he died.Papillon then asked that man, “How do I look?”This gave the viewer the impression that Papillon may end up dying like the other man that asked that question.

The movie used effective close-up shots on the faces of characters such as Papillon and Louis Dega.The viewer could almost visually see the bonding between Louis and Papillon as the movie progresses.The experiences that they go through together are extremely adventurous.For example, when Louis is becoming weak and ill and beginning to vomit and the guard begins to harass him, Papillon goes over and throws hot soup into the guards eyes (which is shown in Point-of-View style) and they are able to escape temporarily.

There were also some very suspenseful, yet humorous parts that kept the viewer at the edge of their seats.An example of that is when Papillon and a couple other prisoners plan to execute their escape from the prison.A party is being held for the guards and the orchestra is playing as all the action is occurring.As Papillon finally gets out of the room and gets in position to knock out another guard, the orchestra suddenly pauses, leaving the viewer wondering if they were going to get caught.However, right as Papillon hits the man in the head, the orchestra starts back up with a bang, trumping the noise made by Papillon when he hit the guard.I found this somewhat humorous and also very relieving as I was hoping that they would be able to execute the escape.All but one was able to escape over the fence and Louis unexpectedly joined them.Although, he did not have such an easy job getting over the fence as he dangled from it for an extended period just before he was pulled over right before a guard got to him.Another great use of the close-up was showing Toussaint (the Leper colony chief) in the shadows.While Papillon attempts to not appear phased, it is subtly displayed by his facial expression that he is disturbed.As the viewer, I was certainly shocked.I was also disgusted that he smoked from the same cigar that the Leper chief smoked from.

The movie ends after Papillon finds Louis after yet another stint in the silent camp.They reunite on a small island where the living does not appear all that bad.However, while Louis is content with the lifestyle, Papillon still desires to be free.Papillon comes up with another plan to test out.He throws a bag of coconuts off a very high cliff and then he jumps off towards them as the camera appears to go into slow motion.He ends up riding the waves 24 miles to freedom.


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