Chinatown is a film which deals with numerous issues that affect the urban society and modern times. There is much crime and personal interest involved in all aspects of life. What is important to mention is also the fact that some people are monsters by nature and not only because of their greed. The most important themes that this film deals with are: love, greed, feminine power and moral corruption.
There are different kinds of love in human relationships, but the relationship between a father and a daughter is sacred. In this film, Noah Cross is the man who commits incest because he conceives a baby with his own daughter and he says that he is an honorable man in the eyes of the public. “Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough” (Polanski, Chinatown). Some people believe that money brings them power which makes them above any kind of law. They do not care about morality or about the police. These people rule the world and they usually outlive much younger people. Love is a driving force that is stronger than money and power, but sometimes, it cannot win. Incest is a crime both legally and morally and people who commit it are supposed to be punished for that. If a father has sex with his own daughter and that results in her having a baby, that is immoral and wrong from all the perspectives. Noah Cross also says: “You see, Mr. Gittes, most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and right place, they’re capable of anything” (Polanski, Chinatown). The fact that people are capable of anything under the given circumstances makes them seem like monsters. If there were no morality, or law there would be no civilization. Love for power and for money can be stronger than love for another human being no matter how close they might be. There will always be people who are incapable of feeling love. In this film, Evelyn is looking for love because she was deprived of it by her father who is both dangerous and insane.
Greed motivates people and makes them wish to live in secluded areas where they feel like they are untouchable. This is what happens to the people who want to have their personal kingdoms. They think about urbanism in a way that makes them independent and consider themselves to be above everybody else. These people think that they deserve to be treated differently than other people because they think that their money-making ability makes them superior. “This group likes to think of urbanity as the kind of life lived by people in apartments in dense city centers that contain major highbrow cultural institutions” (Bruegmann, 2011, p. 213). It is important for such individuals to be involved in cultural events and to make public appearances. However, in the case of Noah Cross, he keeps a low profile because it is a disgrace for such a person to appear in the press and have publicity. Age brings wisdom and makes some people untouchable which is wrong because nobody is supposed to be above the law. There is something different in a way of thinking of extremely rich people because they think of themselves in a special way. These people want “to make life more convenient and pleasant for themselves and to avoid the things that made nineteenth-century industrial cities so unpleasant for people who did not have a great deal of money” (Bruegmann, 2011, p. 213). The people who became rich too fast want to change their lifestyle so that it becomes completely different from the life that was led by people who belonged to the middle class. The elite social groups want everything to be different and there are no boundaries to their greed. In Chinatown, Yelburton is a wealthy man, but he stills becomes an accomplice in a crime so that he can become even richer because having money and power is everything to these greedy people. Greed makes people commit such crimes that could get them killed as well. These crimes involve murders especially of high profile people who are morally righteous which makes them easy targets because they are the ones who are fighting for social justice. Greed is a personal trait that is negative and deprives people of any emotions they might have.
Women have always fought for their rights and they have the power that is unlike any other form of power because they are capable of seducing men and using emotions to accomplish their goals. In Chinatown, Evelyn uses her femininity and grace to make Jake be on her side and she is successful at that although he ultimately fails to protect her. Women need to have their own resources in order to protect their rights and these stem from their intelligence, education and money. It is not easy for weak people to be successful in urban areas because there is much competition and being hard-working does no always pay. People need to have social skills and to be good at business. If they invent something, that gives them privileges and makes them be in an advantageous position. These people “are the voters who elect government officials and who push for land-use regulations that will benefit them, often at a price of other parts of population” (Breugmann, 2011, p. 214). That is why women need to protect themselves even more than men because they are the weaker sex. In Chinatown, Evelyn has a morally righteous husband who is against her father because he is a monster and that is why the husband gets killed. Influential people use their financial power to make their lives better and this leads to the social disparity and unequal rights that affect the poor population. Women are powerless in this world unless they have male protection although they might have financial power. “It is true that if all land-use restrictions were abolished, American cities might redevelop somewhat higher densities and with more mixed use” (Breugmann, 2011, p. 218). The world revolves around power and money and the economic resources are the most important. Even life and death are related to the money and personal interests of influential people. That is why feminine power is important because women cannot be helpless because it might lead them to death which happens in Evelyn’s case. Many women depend on the men in their lives and they often make crucial decision about their well-being and about their future. Many influential people in the world have the main goal of maintaining their power and financial dominance.
There is moral corruption in the world and it is especially related to urban environment because rich people make decisions that are useful for them and bad for the rest of the population. In Chinatown, influential people are making the certain area of land dry in order to make its price cheaper and this is morally wrong because once this land is bought water supply will be restored and the price will go up again. “Many members of cultural elites are not interested in hearing about the benefits of increased choice for the population at large because they believe that ordinary citizens given a choice, will usually make the wrong one” (Breugmann, 2011, p. 220). This is not in accordance with the rules of democracy where all the citizens are supposed to be equal and have the same opportunities in life. However, it is only true that people are supposed to have more power once they become rich enough. At this point, the influential people make the decisions that affect the whole population. This is morally wrong and there is much corruption in the world because people who have the power want to maintain it and people who do not have the power want to obtain it. “Government decisions are not the only kinds of social activities which affect local growth chances: decisions made by private corporations also have major impact” (Molotch, 2011, p. 254). This is why the people from the government, who are supposed to protect the public good and take care about the well-being of the society as a whole, become morally corrupt. They are promised to get a promotion by private corporations if they protect their personal interests.
Chinatown deals with major social and psychological themes that affect modern society and people need to be aware of all the negative consequences that this can bring. Common citizens have to fight for justice and to vote for the people of integrity to lead them through tough times. It is not democratic for individuals to hold the sources that are beneficial for the population as a whole, such as water. People need water to survive and to take care of their land and their animals. Drought can bring much trouble and make people impoverished and desperate. Therefore, morally righteous people have to protect the right of the underprivileged population.
Polanski, Roman, dir. Chinatown. Paramount, 1974. Film.
Bruegmann, Robert. "The Causes of Sprawl." The City Reader. Ed. Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout. 5th ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. 211-21. Print.
Molotch, Harvey. "The City as as Growth Machine: Towards a Political Economy of Place." The City Reader. Ed. Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout. 5th ed. New York: Routledge, 2011. 251-62. Print.