Following the seminar on popular justice in which I had the pleasure to take part, I’m strongly recommending to the participants (and to anyone else interested in issues of justice and law) a very fine movie that got much too little attention: The Jack Bull. It’s combines good acting, good directing, excellent camera work (and beautiful setting), and a brilliant story, which is basically a very faithful transposition of Heinrich von Kleist’s novelette “Michael Kohlhaas” (available in English in this edition of his stories and in German in this edition) to the Wyoming territory just before statehood. In place of the Elector of Brandenburg, for example, you get John Goodman as a frontier judge.
The film is a great conversation starter, as I saw when Randy Barnett brought it to a seminar in Germany of the Institute for Economic Studies — Europe at which we both taught. One session was devoted to watching and then discussing the film and the students, who came from Germany, Bulgaria, Russia, France, Italy, Britain, and a number of other countries, used the occasion well to work out their ideas about the relationship of law to justice.
(As an aside, Kleist’s other short stories are brilliant, as well, and well worth reading.)