Silence and Communication in Amistad

Amistad is a film in which the themes of communication, language, translation, and silence function at the forefront of understanding. This is first evident in Spielberg’s choice not to subtitle the first 15 minutes of the film.  The audience hears a foreign language, Mende, from Sierra Leone but can not understand it, thus establishing the void of communication that will continue throughout the film.  The barrier of communication continues into the trials, making the slaves difficult to defend unless they can find a way to communicate.  This comes in the obvious form of a translator.  In addition, translation is also present in more subtle ways in other aspects of the film such as its cinematic techniques.  Spielberg’s choice to translate meaning both in flashback and in storytelling allows the audience to know/understand more than the characters in the film.

The following shots depict defining moments of communication throughout the film:

38:31 - The useless translator

38:31 - The useless translator

Continue reading