sinecine ISSN: 1309-5838

Crime and Justice in Film: A Poststructuralist Reading


This article explores the concepts of crime, punishment and justice from a poststructuralist perspective in three films, namely In Cold Blood (Richard Brooks, 1967), A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971), and The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962), all of which feature protagonists who are punished by law for a crime they have – or, in the case of the last film, are thought to have – committed. The films will be analysed through the lens of poststructuralist discourses on power and justice, in particular the theories of Michel Foucault, who argues that punitive practices vary depending on the changing power relations in society, and of Jacques Derrida, who sets out to deconstruct the conventional, essentialist understanding of law and justice. This article will attempt to demonstrate that these three films, which question the legitimacy of the punishment inflicted on the protagonists, present a critique of dominant punitive practices and established definitions of justice in such a way as to reinforce the poststructuralist stance that precludes the possibility that punitive laws can be grounded upon a legitimate basis.

Keywords: Crime, punishment, justice, poststructuralism, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida.