Rhetorical Appeals in Bernie

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Bernie: A Film Based on a True Story

Bernie is a film based on a true story of a murder in small Texas town. The murder is committed by a funeral director, Bernie Tiede. The filmmaker Linklater, a native Texan involves Jack Black who plays the character of Bernie Tiede, the undertaker who confessed of killing his aging benefactress. The film is drawn from a story that was highlighted in the Texas Monthly" journal by Skip Hollandsworth. In the film, Jack Black befriends a wealthy widow after her husband's death and later kills the aging woman. It is not clear why the funeral director killed the old lady although it is speculated that considering the old lady's wealthy background, Bernie might have had interest in her wealth. Despite the horrific scenes witnessed in the film, Linklater seeks to explore the emotional attachment between the deceased, their families and the society at large. The filmmaker uses rhetorical appeals to logos, ethos and pathos in his quest to communicate his intended message to his viewers. The paper analyzes the use of the rhetorical appeals of logos, pathos, and ethos in the film as well as the effect of these appeals on the presentation of the film.

Rhetorical Appeal to Pathos

One of the most vital rhetorical appeals that is employed in the film is the rhetorical appeal to pathos. Linklater uses the rhetorical appeal of pathos to appeal to the reader's emotions of empathy, sorrow, and pity. Most of the scenes in the film are horrific as it involves body scenes such as the dead body of the aging woman murdered by the funeral director. It is such bloody scenes that are effective in appealing to the reader's emotions of sorrow, pity, and empathy. Through the rhetorical appeal of pathos, Linklater is able to establish an emotional connection between the viewer and the characters in the film such as Bernie and the aging lady.

Although it would be expected that the viewer would show sympathy and pity on the aging woman, the filmmaker succeeds in getting the viewer to empathize with the funeral director who had killed the aging woman. Linklater also uses the background music playing while the film is ongoing to create a somber mood in the movie. This is also a strategy to capture and maintain the viewer's attention in the film. The background music that plays when Bernie is sorting out the pills, for example, creates a somber mood, it makes the viewer empathize with Bernie. It also prepares the viewer for the horrific scenes that are about to ensure in the film. The background music plays with a slow tempo that is effective in creating the perfect mood of gloom and sorrow that the filmmaker intended to portray. Therefore, the filmmaker is successful in applying the rhetorical appeal of pathos in capturing and maintaining the viewer's attention as well as appealing to the emotions of empathy, sorrow, and pity in the film.

Rhetorical Appeal to Logos

The appeal of logos is one of the other rhetorical appeals that play a major role in the communication of the filmmaker's intended message to its audience. Scenes such as when the aging woman confesses that no one was nice to her in 15 years is an example of how the appeal to ethos is employed in the film. The filmmaker uses such scenes to assure the viewers of the logic behind his message that it was not the aging woman's fault to trust the funeral director. Linklater uses this scene to not only appeal to the viewer's empathy but also as proof that the message he was trying to communicate in the film was logical and rational.

If any of the viewers were to be put in the aging woman's situation, most of them would have fallen for the trap laid by the funeral director just like the aging woman. The point that the filmmaker tries to put across, in this case, is that it is only logical that humans tend to be nice to people who are nice to them and that as humans, we tend to trust such people.

The scene in the film when the freezers and the picture of the dead body in the court is one of the examples of how the filmmaker employs the use of the rhetorical appeal to ethos. Linklater uses this scene to assure the reader of the credibility of his position. The freezers and the picture of the dead body are presented in court as evidence to link the funeral director to the murder of the aging woman. The preacher who is involved in the film is also used to assure the reader that the message being communicated in the film is credible and reliable. The viewer is convinced to believe in the filmmaker's intended message due to the involvement of the preacher in the presentation of the film's message. In a nutshell, the filmmaker is successful in using all the three rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos to communicate his intended message. The rhetorical appeal to pathos is one of the most successful appeals employed in the film.

September 25, 2023

Movies Communication

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