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Detective Hazel Micallef hasn't had much to worry about in the sleepy town of Fort Dundas until a string of gruesome murders in the surrounding countryside brings her face to face with a serial killer driven by a higher calling.
In his opening speech the prosecutor tells the jury that he will not be able to put up a projector and show them what happened on a screen. This interesting movie remains true to that announcement and documents in a chronological order what went on in the courtroom in the trial against Jean Harris, accused of having murdered her long time lover, a well known doctor. The viewers have more or less the viewpoint of a member of the jury.
What is being said seems to come straight out of a protocol. The atmosphere in the courtroom is one of tolerance and also patience. Witnesses, not least the prime witness, the accused herself, often start to meander in their statements and it usually takes quite a while for the judge to interrupt them in a civil tone. The patient viewer is rewarded with an insight into the psyche of a strong willed, intelligent career woman to whom fate dealt cruel blows and who could just not take it anymore.
The acting is very good, Ellen Burstyn is absolutely convincing as Jean Harris and Martin Balsam gives a beautifully laid back performance as her lawyer. The judge, played by Richard A. Dysart, is one of the most uplifting movie judges I have ever seen. He shows great respect for all the people concerned and really is the conductor of the court proceedings which he has, tolerance non-withstanding, in a firm grip.
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