Framing not only allows us to read the significance of and attitudes of characters but also directs us towards the codes being set down in the mise-en-scene. For example, when Biko is Iying unconscious in prison, the whole focus of our attention is on the naked figure Iying on a stone floor, caged like an animal. Nothing else intrudes into the frame; it is what is left out of the mise-en-scene that is important here - no extraneous and distracting detail, nothing to alleviate the literally naked power of the image. The very low level lighting works with the mise-en-scene to enclose this scene in a highly dramatic manner. The markedly contrasting use of mise-en-scene within the Woods house on New Year's eve where the lounge is a very comfortable room, expensively furnished, complete with piano, television set and decorative ornaments, captures the easy lifestyle which they have, in part, chosen to abandon. The interior of Kruger's house takes this idea of comfort one step further with its lavish furnishings that suggest a history of gracious living that has been passed from one generation to the next. The furniture is old, solid and entrenched in its setting, much like the Afrikaaner residents that inhabit the house. The mise-en-scene within the black dwellings, on the other hand, is spartan in comparison; simple wooden table and chairs dominate the set and around these a cluttered scene suggesting cramped living conditions.
This narrative could have been told in an infinite number of ways, depending on the director's choice of montage and editing techniques. The opening sequence of the film is a good illustration of how carefully constructed montage works. The dreamy, peaceful dawn sequences are followed by a number of fast cut, noisy, chaotic sequences which, in turn, give way to the sleepy awakening of Dr. Rampeli, then match cutting back to the aftermath of Crossroads. These frames have been carefully sequenced to build atmosphere, pose narrative possibilities and balance pace. In order to illustrate the two parallel events that are taking place - Donald Wood's night journey to his rendezvous point and his family's morning journey to the "beach" (in fact, to Wendy Woods's parents) - match cutting is used regularly; for example, when Donald Woods arrives on New Year's eve in a small town, Auld Lang Syne is being sung, then we cut to the Woods's house and the family is awaiting the count down to the New Year before they too sing Auld Lang Syne. Here, then, an aural link helps to convey the idea of parallel events. Another example of a match cut linked aurally would be when we go from Crossroads to Dr. Rampeli's radio and hear a report on the night's events. The verbal link helps to establish time having past so that we can return to Crossroads at a later stage with a sense of continuity of time.
Lighting is likewise a vital tool in creating atmosphere and cuing an audience's reactions. For example, the opening lighting of the shadowy half light of dawn creates a black and white image, colours which are themselves symbolic. This black and white effect persists through the images of the approaching police vehicles, suggesting the colour of newspaper print. Much of the film is shot externally so that the bright, sunlit areas of white gardens and open landscape are sharp and clear in contrast to the nighttime visit that Biko takes Woods on when street lighting from above is used to convey black shadows and a flat, bleached look to Woods's lit face as he passes under a light. Biko's black face remains in shadow as though emphasising that this is his natural camouflage. In this scene, a young child's eyes are lit from the side in close up to capture his fear. Inside the shabeen the light is harsh, unnatural and garish. In contrast, the internal lighting in Woods's house is bright, warm and cheerful, particularly on New Year's eve or when Donald Woods is telling his children about his trial. In the courtroom, Biko is lit from behind and from the left hand side, creating a halo effect. Perhaps one of the most powerful uses of light is in the shots which capture the first meeting between Biko and Woods when the camera breaks a general technical rule and shoots directly into the sun but through the swaying branches of a weeping willow tree. The fractured light breaks through the tree from behind which Biko steps, saviour-like, caught in a shaft of golden light which blinds Woods. Light is being used here to create a powerful icon. Darkness is used very effectively as a symbol throughout the film - a darkness which is suddenly penetrated by the sharp glare of car headlights or torches; for example when Crossroads is raided or when Woods meets up with the black minister who is helping him to escape. This contrast between dark, confined places and brightly lit space of the natural landscape is used to reinforce the powerful message of inequality Lighting is complemented by sound, particularly music and dialogue, which also assists in reinforcing the ideology of the film.
The film opens with a black screen and the sounds of cicadas and other noises associated with a tropical country. There is an eerie expectancy in this soundtrack. Then we hear voices speaking in what most people would recognise as an African tongue, in this case a Bantu dialect with its distinctive clicking sounds. This is followed by peaceful early morning images which, in turn, are followed by a threatening, loud, rumbling sound whose source the audience does not see until a few seconds after the harsh, metallic sound of the telex-type credits and the clicking sound accompanying the photo-journalistic shots of the looming trucks induces a feeling of fear and alarm. The latter changes to horrified confusion when a plethora of sounds accompanies images of assault; running feet, smashing glass, shrieks, screams, angry orders being shouted, a baby wailing, the roaring din from the destructive trucks - all these create a feeling of chaos and panic. This scene cuts immediately to initial, stunning silence before we see Dr. Rampeli slowly awakening. She switches on the radio which gives a report on the events we have just witnessed. The bias of this particular medium is clearly highlighted when the announcer indicates that "no resistance" was met. We then cut back to Crossroads where images of a razed landscape are accompanied by the deep-throated rhythmic sounds of singing African voices which convey a plaintive note of suffering. Music plays a very important role in the film; there seem to be three different principal musical motifs, one suggesting pain and suffering, one suggesting tension and danger, the last conveying national pride and victory. For example, when Biko takes Woods into the township at night, the tense strings and the insistent drumbeat reflect the danger that Biko talks of. But when Woods becomes "converted" to Biko's philosophy the swelling voices of the African chorus accompany him as if to underline his empathy with the "cause". Again when firstly Woods, then his family make it across the bridge to freedom, the swelling sounds of the triumphant motif are heard. Finally it is heard as the aircraft crosses safely into "friendly" airspace, and the closing list of dead prisoners rolls to the accompaniment of the African Anthem Perhaps the most moving use of music, however, is at Biko's funeral when the African Anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' i Afrika , is sung unaccompanied by the mass of mourners. Attenborough has used the wonderful natural ear for harmony that Africans have to powerful effect.
It is through the sound of dialogue, however, that the film's potent themes are revealed. In our first meeting with Donald Woods, his liberal, anti-government stance is made clear when he says he wants "the police blamed for that raid", referring to Crossroads. But also stressed are the ideological differences between himself and Biko. He sees the latter as adopting a dangerous, extremist stance - " some black nutcase" talking of "black supremacy" and advocating "black consciousness". Once Dr. Rampeli enters the scene, this stance is further underlined when he refers to Biko as a "sensationalist pushing black prejudice" and accusing him of "building a wall of black hatred". Dr. Rampeli defends Biko whom we have not met as yet, accusing Woods of "putting words in his (Biko's) mouth". A sense of bitterness at the injustices meted out by a white government comes across in her reference to her education as a "token of your white paternalistic concern". In these two scenes, therefore, the dialogue has carefully established two rather imbalanced viewpoints - Woods who thinks Biko is racist and Rampeli who seems to be damning all whites. It is through the powerful use of dialogue that these imbalances are seen to correct themselves. Much of the background to Biko's own philosophy is given while "on the move" - for example, when he is conducting Woods round the "centre" and its gardens that Biko has helped to establish. Attenborough has been wise enough to realise that this kind of informative dialogue would tend to be lost in a static setting. But as it is, there are visual images to absorb while the dialogue runs. The gap between the two men is captured very effectively by placing one on either side of a path, across which they attempt to communicate. The reasons for the black man's sense of injustice are explained very powerfully when the two men walk through the squalid, narrow streets of a black township. Biko explains the disadvantages of being a black child when he says: "Smart or dumb, you're born into this and smart or dumb, you'll die in it." But the full power of Biko's persuasive oratory comes across most keenly at the football match and, in particular, in the dramatic setting of the courtroom where the actual words spoken are taken from a transcript of the real trial. His explanation of "black consciousness" has power and reason when he explains that "black has always had negative connotations - black sheep - " etcetera. It is Biko's words that dominate the film, despite the fact that the man disappears from the film at a relatively early point. We return to them in the latter part of the narrative in the form of flashbacks when Donald Woods remembers key statements like: "Just say that justice will be done. Let's hope it will not be visited on the innocent."
Hard-line, right wing ideology is also represented in dialogue, particularly in the way in which Kruger, the Minister for Justice, is heard speaking, on the one hand, in a sympathetic manner to Woods, promising an investigation into the police role in the raid on the community centre because he says, "I want no thugs in my police force" and, on the other, callously stating to his audience, "So Biko's death leaves me cold" and ,"They (meaning people like Biko) have a democratic right to starve themselves." (The official explanation for Biko's death at this time was given as death resulting from a hunger strike.) With a chilling attempt at black humour, Kruger adds, "I suppose I would feel sorry for my own death." The policeman, Captain De Wet, reinforces this standpoint in the way in which he addresses Biko after his arrest at the football stadium, calling him "kaffir" - a derogatory term used by whites when insulting blacks, particularly black workers. There is also an attempt to lighten the tone occasionally through the use of humorous dialogue; for example, when Biko's wife says to him, I'm glad I wasn't your mother" or, having managed to fool the police in a house search, she pats her baby's nappy where incriminating papers have been hidden and says with a wry smile, "I think we should get these out of here!" Donald Woods also helps to release tension at times through humorous exchanges; for example, when, disguised as a priest, he swears volubly at some children chasing the truck in which he is escaping and then says,"l suppose I'll have to do penance for that." The old man who helps Donald to reach the Telle bridge also contributes some lighter notes when he explodes in a fit of mirth at the very idea of this white editor escaping with incriminating evidence against the South African government. He bursts out, "Kruger will shit himself - Boethe will shit himself," laughing helplessly at his part in the drama. Dialogue, therefore, is central to the film, informing, persuading, creating and defusing tension.
In a film as dramatically powerful as Cry Freedom , it is not surprising to find a number of key symbols appearing. For example, the beautiful wide angled shot of the flock of birds rising from the rich brown and green of the African veld has a number of symbolic connotations: flight, itself, hope, escape, freedom etcetera. The white Mercedes belonging to Donald Woods, his garden pool, Kruger's imposing house - all are powerful symbols of white affluence. Even the deserted beach seems to symbolise the irony of a white population representing 15% of the total South African population monopolising 87% of the land and its natural resources, such as beaches and its coastal waters. Other symbols include the close up of the shackled hands, fists clenched in defiance, that are carved into the lid of Biko's coffin; the close up of the dead Steve Biko's feet and the attached identity ticket, symbolising his apparent worthlessness - a mere object to be labelled; the close up of the padlocked gates that guard the Telle bridge; the bridge itself, spanning a river that separates and divides peoples; the heavy rains that symbolise both destruction and regeneration and that closing image of the list of prisoners and their fates that rolls up like a powerful accusatory symbol of all that is inhumane and evil in mankind.
The characters themselves are perhaps the most important symbols; Biko, the saviour-like figure, sitting amidst his "disciples" after the rugby match, preaching his gospel; Woods, the intelligent, compassionate and courageous individual fighting a corrupt system, symbolising the strength of man's spirit and his capacity for sacrifice. This appears to be how the key participants are represented. But what of other representations? Other blacks are represented in a very sympathetic light - perhaps even idealised; they are seen as intelligent, wise, good humoured and proud of their racial history. The black minister/priest who risks his own life to help Woods escape, the wise, good humoured old man who drives his battered car to the Telle bridge, Woods's maid, Evelyn who expresses genuine affection for the children and goes about her work with dignity and willingness of spirit, the black journalist, Mapetu who loses his life trying to establish the truth to print in Woods's newspaper - all these images suggest a very sympathetic representation. The only negative image of black people we have is of black policemen whom we are intended to see as having been corrupted by the white system, allowing themselves to be exploited by the white man to impose white-made laws on their fellow black men. Apart from the Woods family, the only other white people who appear are a fellow journalist/photographer who is also seen as a sympathetic liberal, a token white woman at the funeral and the police who are linked to Kruger, the Minister for Justice.
Representations of the police are typified in the images of Captain De Wet who arrests Biko after the football match. He is physically large, coarse faced and bull-like in appearance, features that are emphasised in extreme close ups. He is insulting, physically violent and unable to communicate in an intelligent and reasoned manner. He is to be seen as dull-witted, relying on the fist and the boot, rather than on the mind. This same kind of brutal image is repeated in the closing scenes of the Soweto uprising when the camera focuses in close up on the same broad, coarse features, the physical bulk and the readiness to use force - this time the indiscriminate force of the gun. Dramatic images such as that of the young boy running to escape over a wire fence and being shot in the back - reminiscent of similar images from post war films involving escapes from prisoner of war camps - or that of the policeman hanging out the window of a moving car, gun aimed at a fleeing child - an image straight out of American gangster films of the '30's - all reinforce this brutal representation. Kruger is a more sophisticated version of this image (like the Mafia boss); his brutality is either one step removed -instructing or colluding with De Wet and his men on their masked raid on the community centre - or verbal as in his comments already quoted about Biko's death leaving him cold. His thuggish representatives come knocking on Woods's door, armed with threats and hiding behind sinister-looking dark glasses.
The final impression of Cry Freedom is of a film of tremendous power which has something of the epic quality about it - sweeping shots of vast landscapes, huge crowd scenes and a theme of matching epic proportions. I don't have a budget figure for this but my guess is that it was a large one. Many things lead me to this conclusion. Firstly, although there are no big stars as such (John Thaw as Kruger and Timothy West as Captain De Wet are the only recognisable names to a British audience), the director, Sir Richard Attenborough, maker of another major film, "Ghandi" obviously has star quality and would be able to attract financial backing on the strength of his track record. He would also be liable to attract an audience who would be 'buying" the film on the strength of their recognition of the director's talent, rather than more conventionally, on the strength of the actor/actress's "star" rating. The high proportion of "on location" shots also suggest a high budget. The film was shot in Zimbabwe where the government was very eager to co-operate and to be seen as a sympathetic front-line state.
The huge crowd scenes, particularly at Steve Biko's funeral, also suggest high spending with hundreds, even thousands of extras being required. Similarly both the Crossroads sequence and the Soweto sequence would have incurred high costs. The weather plays an important part in the film. South Africa's warm climate would have meant perhaps an unimpeded shooting schedule but what of those scenes where torrential rain is needed? This may have required waiting around with film crews, sound crews, actors etcetera for days until the appropriate weather came or may even have necessitated a return visit to South Africa once the rainy season had come.
Because the script, written by screen writer, John Briley, was based on Donald Woods's own book, the latter was invited to accompany Richard Attenborough on location. Presumably, this incurred further costs. Internal sets such as Kruger's residence and the Woods home would have been negotiated and a fixed rental paid for the filming period while the interiors of the sets in the black townships would have incurred little expense as they were probably built on site or in the studio. The construction of the Crossroads set would have been a different matter! Costuming is not lavish but the sheer numbers of extras would have incurred a major cost, unless they supplied their own . The industrial determinants influencing Cry Freedom , therefore, would seem to me to centre on the star quality of Sir Richard Attenborough who could attract major financial backing, the bulk of which was then spent on establishing an authentic and powerful setting using lavish "location" shots, rather than on "star" acting names. The film could not rely on many spin-offs because of the nature of the subject matter ---the musical score perhaps and video production. It had to sell itself on the basis of its powerful universal message and on the name of its talented director who obviously had a strongly felt mission to evangelise the apartheid cause in the name of universal freedom.