I also think the purpose of this film being made was to clear Bentley’s name and highlight the family’s suffering. I think this because although it is a film which connects immediately with entertainment, I don’t think that was the main reason it was filmed. Using film is a clever way of making money because when a new film comes out, lots of people go to see it out of curiosity, especially if it is true. However, as the viewers get captivated by the film, I think they would be drawn into sympathizing towards the Bentley family and hoping no court trials in the future have the same outcome.
Derek Bentley was hanged on the 28th of January 1953, at the age of 10 for incitement to murder. Bentley was illiterate and is alleged to have had a mental age of 11. He also suffered from epilepsy as a result of a head injury received during the Blitz attack. On Sunday the 2nd 1952, Derek Bentley went with his friend, 16 year old Christopher Craig, to see if they could carry out a burglary. Bentley was armed with a knife and a knuckle-duster which Craig had recently given him. Craig had a similar knife but was also armed with a revolver.
They had planned to break into a warehouse belonging to a company called Parker & Barlow in Croydon. As they climbed onto the roof of the warehouse, they were noticed by a little girl who lived opposite and whose mother phoned the police. Craig and Bentley were on the roof as the police as the police arrived and attempted to run but DC Fairfax quickly retained Bentley. Craig decided to shoot his way out and fired at DC Fairfax, wounding him in the shoulder. Later, Craig fired the fatal shot which killed PC Constable Miles. Both Craig and Bentley were convicted of the murder of PC Miles at their trial. weeks later, the jury returned guilty verdicts on both youths with a recommendation for mercy in Bentley’s case.
Although Derek Bentley did not have a gun and was already restrained by police at the time of the shooting, the police claimed he was equally guilty of the crime because he supposedly incited to his accomplice ‘Let him have it, Chris’. Many people have argued that these words actually meant let him have the gun and were not words of encouragement. Craig could not be sentenced to death because he was under age so thoughts of vengeance turned to Bentley. After the trial, many attempts were made to secure a reprieve for Bentley.
The Home Secretary blocked all attempts by his MP colleagues even to get the matter discussed. At one point, it was argued that a Parliamentary debate on whether the sentence should be carried out could only take place after the sentence should be carried out. Derek Bentley, at the age of 19 was hanged in Wandsworth at 9am on 28th January 1953. Craig was released from prison in May 1963 after serving 10 years and he settled in Buckinghamshire. Peter Medak has gained our sympathy for Derek Bentley using several different methods. After watching this film the viewer feels quite emotional and sorry for Derek.
This film most certainly portrays him to be harmless and innocent, he is played by Chris Eccleston as a likeable teenager, inoffensive, fond of his family, able to deal with life in its ordinary aspects, but incapable of standing up to his friend Chris. The film makes us feel sorry for Derek and puts us on his side; this is done by focusing Derek as the main character. Christopher Craig is shown as a stereotypical “baddie” in the film who influences Derek into wrong. The introduction of Chris Craig into the film is quite the typical entry of an evil character, so the audience immediately knows that Craig is the villain on first sight.
Medak builds a case the leaves no doubt in the viewers mind that Bentley should never have been tried. He follows Bentley’s life episodically from the time he, as a child was buried alive in a building rubble during the bombing of London; an experience that medak implies left Bentley with epilepsy or other brain damage or both. This is an effective opening because it builds up tension and starts towards building up the viewers sympathy towards him as he was afflicted with such a mortifying disease.
This builds up a sympathetic portrait of a young man who needed help more than hanging. The scenes on the roof also lead for the viewer feeling sorry for Bentley because he is shown weak and vulnerable- when one of the officers grabbed hold of him he did not make any attempts to get away, suggesting that he didn’t want to get into trouble and didn’t mean to cause any intentionally. Derek also made remarks regarding his and the officers’ safety which show the caring nature. Not many people would worry about the safety of anyone else, especially the police officers in this situation.