Scarface, The Original
Scarface, Violent or Not
Scarface, a 1932 film by Howard Hawks, has been such a famous and successful film because of its richness in almost every aspect. Even though this film has been seen as one of the greatest films of its time because of its incorporation of diegetic sound, its symbolism through both the sound and through the mise-en-scene, it has also had a lot of criticism because of its supposed glorification of violence and organized crime. We will discuss the idea that, while this movie does contain a significant amount of both violence and organized crime, I believe it is not promoting either of the two because of its introduction wording, the strife in Tony Camonte’s life, and the ending of the film.
In the opening scene of the film, there are a few shots of text before anything else. These texts talk about violence, organized crime, and what the government is doing about it. This text calls these things a “constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty.” They also promptly ask the government, “What are you going to do about it?” This is followed by letting the audience know that they are part of the government, and asks them, what are they going to do about it. This opening text provides a viewpoint for the audience before they even start watching the film. Addressing the Gangster lifestyle immediately as a menace to our safety and liberty shows that they do not encourage these types of behaviors. Because of this I find it hard to believe that this film is encouraging/glamorizing violence and organized crime.
Even during the film we don’t see the glamorization of violence. Through Tony Camonte’s life we find that the violence doesn’t lead to a better life, but rather, it makes his life more chaotic and out of control. His violence leads to killing innocent people, rebellion of his sister, people attempting to kill him, the police constantly after him, and strife in all his relationships. Eventually he becomes so numb to the killing that, after killing his sister’s lover, it all comes back to him about what he is really doing. Then, his sister turns on him and almost kills him as well. The film clearly shows that violence can’t solve your problems, at least not permanently.
As a conclusion to the film and Tony Camonte’s life we see him get gunned down by the very thing that he lived by: guns and violence. On top of this, we see him in the shape of an “X” as he’s shot. This is a constant symbol throughout the movie that comes right before or around the death of someone in the film. Following this is a pan back to the sign we see a couple times throughout the film that says, “The world is yours.” This metaphorical image shows us that you cannot obtain everything in this world through organized crime and violence. In the end, there will always be justice served to those who deserve it.
So, while there is a significant amount of violence and scenes of organized crime in this film, there is definitely a message from the opening to the closing of the film that shows that this lifestyle is not what it seems to be. Violence is not the answer unless you want you life to be constant chaos. Tony Camonte tried it, and although it brought him temporary happiness, his life became increasingly unresolved and out of control. I find it difficult to think of how this film could be glamorizing violence. It clearly shows that this lifestyle doesn’t lead to anything good, and prompts us to do something to stop people from believing it does. For these reasons, I don’t think this film is attempting to glamorize the gangster life.