Neil Sinyard argues that Fred Zinnemann’s protagonists share in a courageous struggle. Through High Noon, From Here to Eternity, Nun’s Story and A Man For All Seasons, one witnesses remarkably striking similarities among the individuals and the methods Zinneman uses to enhance them.
To Zinnemann, there existed realities worse than death for a hero. Sinyard notes that High Noon’s heroic Marshal “elaborated a characteristic Zinnemann protagonist: a loner with a strong sense of duty who knows he could not live with himself if he were to go against his conscience” (67). In From Here to Eternity, though the protagonist Prewitt accomplishes relatively little, like many of Zinnemann’s other protagonists, his individualism forces others to confront uncomfortable decisions. In A Man For All Seasons, Zinnemann assumes the audience knows nothing and depicts More as a “hero of selfhood” who refuses to accede to political or social pressures. Zinnemann’s protagonists are inspirational because their decisions have a transcendent resonance with the audience. Each hero ends up confronting evil alone and without any assistance.
Zinnemann used creative visual imagery to enhance his protagonists and enhance their accessibility. In High Noon, he uses close-ups of a clock as the climax approaches. Though a Western, the central theme is a struggle of characters, not the landscape, and the flatness of the film projects that. The opening shot of From Here to Eternity shows the conflict of the individual with the group and the contrast between the purposeful path of one man and the rigidity of a group. In Nun’s Story, Zinnemann uses visual imagery to portray the horrors of war through twisted trees. With More, as he approaches his doom in the courthouse, he enters through a narrow path symbolizes the difficult path of his morality.
In short, Sinyard concludes that the enduring appeal of Thomas More, who epitomizes the personal characteristics of Zinnemann’s other protagonists, is his courage and fortitude in standing for what he felt was right even though it cost him his office and ultimately his life. What makes Zinnemann’s characters enduring and strong is that they “stay on their path that is their concept of destiny”(79) and their willingness to sacrifice everything for principle(93).