Love, lust, forgiveness, remorse, tolerance, sin, violence and death—these are just some of the themes engaged in The ,Ballad of Jack and Rose. It’s the third feature film by writer-director Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity, Angela), a former painter and actress who is the daughter of the late playwright Arthur Miller.
This challenging movie, shown mostly in out-of-the-way venues, has been panned by critics who find it less than subtle and not very believable. Have they forgotten that Ingmar Bergman, considered by many the most influential art movie director of the 20th century, made a series of celebrated films that took place on a barren island that served as a microcosm of ethical choices and moral dilemmas? Have we reached the stage where only subtitled symbolism can avoid being labeled “obvious” or “over the top”?
A. M. Stroud III, a former prosecutor in Louisiana, expresses regret for the role he played in sending Glenn Ford to death row in 1984. “I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud says he presented dubious evidence from a forensic pathologist, precluded black jurors from the trial (Ford, since exonerated, is black), and ignored the fact that the appointed defense attorney had never before tried a criminal or capital case. “I . . . hope that providence will have more mercy for me than I showed Glenn Ford,” Stroud said in a letter to the editor of the Times of Shreveport. “But, I’m also sobered by the realization that I certainly am not deserving of it” (ABA Journal, March 25).