In Monster's Ball, Hank and Leticia have sex in her living room. They engage in extremely passionate and unbridled sex during this scene.

During the scene, we see close-up flashes of a brown-skinned female hand reaching into the cage in an attempt to capture the bird. The bird cannot be caught and flaps its wings. As the sex scene progresses, there are more quick flashes of a female hand attempting to capture this bird. At the end of the scene, the bird is caught and held in the female hand.

We never see Leticia actually putting her hand in the cage or holding a bird...we just see a hand. Also, there is a birdcage in the background on a dresser while Hank and Leticia have sex.

What exactly is the bird and/or the birdcage supposed to represent? It doesn't seem possible that her hand could go into the birdcage in real time given the physicality of their lovemaking. Was this actually Leticia's hand?

NOTE: I did not include a clip of the scene referenced due to the graphic nature of the scene. Unfortunately, I have searched for still pictures of the hand in the cage and have not found any available.

2 Answers 2


This has been discussed as a poorly done jump scene. Since the birdcage is only seen quickly in the background in an earlier scene and it's never a focus, either on film, or in dialog, when we jump to it after the fairly explicit love scene between Leticia and Hank, most viewers are left only scratching their head.

What I understand about that scene, is the reference to a caged thing. In the beginning of the story, we see the death row inmate, Leticia's husband, Lawrence. He is the caged thing. During his death walk, he is led to the chair by Hank, his men, and Hank's son Sonny, in his first death walk. His son disrespects the solemnity of the occasion, by throwing up, mid-walk. When it happens, Lawrence is concerned for Sonny, and asks about his well-being. The thing is, however, in a death walk, it is imperative to keep everything low key and solemn, otherwise the convict about to be killed may begin to fight back and struggle against the death. The officers want everything under control at all times. In the case of Leticia's husband, his death shows no love, no personality or emotions.

The convict is 'released' from all his Earthly concerns. He no longer has to deal with racism, hate, crimes, victims, loved ones... he has been freed from his cage.

Later on, without realizing who she is, as related to the convict he just walked to the chair, Hank starts a relationship with Leticia. Every other act of sex, for him, was just like the death row... never looked the prostitute in the face, no kisses, no love, no emotions of any kind, just sex.

When Hank and Leticia have sex in her living room, after her son's death, she is very emotional herself, exacerbated by the whiskey.

At first, Hank 'takes' her the same way he took the prostitute, from the rear, no looking her in the face, no kissing, no real emotion. But Leticia lost everything, her husband, her son, soon her house (she has to know how far behind she is with rent). She needs the closeness, to held. So she gets up, and turns around, sitting back down on him, but now facing Hank, where she can hold him, and in turn, be held, and kissed. And loved, at least for a minute.

This is a first for Hank. This turns sex into love. Even though she's black, he realizes that he is feeling more than just sex. He gets her emotions and starts the journey away from a loner racist who lost his "artist" son, who has an even worse racist for a father. He starts to feel the release of his own emotions and prejudices.

Then, in Forster's jump cut, we see the caged bird. We also see both hands, his and hers, reach in, and take the bird. We assume they freed the bird from its cage, just as they've been freed from their own problems.

Note, this is my own interpretation, which may be different than yours. Doesn't make yours any more or less accurate, because the only one who knows, is the director, and he never discussed it. I read the screenplay (it's great, and actually VERY readable, compared to most) and the scene is there, but no reference to the cage at all.

  • If I recall correctly, we see the caged bird earlier in a scene, in the background. I think it was when her son eats the candybar, but not sure. We also see it in the background either before or after the eviction. I'll watch it again tonight to be sure and reference it here by scene number.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 17:07
  • As another note, my original answer was going to be even longer. (I really really really like this movie.) In the beginning of the film, we realize that Hank is basically emotionless. He is not only a correctional officer, he is a death-row co. They HAVE to remain unemotional, detached, all the time while at work. If they get emotionally invested, losing someone who has become a friend might tear them apart, both mentally AND emotionally. So, he has no positive emotions at all, not to his son, not to the hooker, no one. I'll bet he never actually grieved for his lost wife...
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:01
  • Now his son wants to join him. He should have forced Sonny to stay away, far far away. His son was too emotional, to craving love, connection, that Hank simply couldn't give. Sonny bonded with Lawrence, having his picture drawn, and worse, accepting it. That gave him (Sonny) the bond with Lawrence. When I saw that the first time, I just absolutely knew Sonny would never complete the walk, never make it as a D-R CO. Then, in the rain storm, Hank passes Leticia and her son who was just hit. Another death. He takes them to the hospital and doesn't know what to do with the clothes or anything
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:05
  • and the doctor, I think, tells him he needs to comfort his 'friend' as she just lost her son. Billy Bob's acting was SPOT ON. He had no idea how to even hold her, hug her, show empathy. Finally we get to the scene in question here, and in one act... simply standing up and away from Hank, turning around, and f@#$'ing him from a facing seated position, Hank ... feels ... perhaps for the first time in as long as his wife had been dead. He loves. He loves her, black or not. It was then he knew he'd never be able to walk the mile again, and quit, put Buck in a home ... and lived. Love this film
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 14:09

I think it represents the spirit in her being "freed" from all the burden she carries within her. From her husband, tragic loss of her son and I'm sure much more that she encountered and had held all of it in. Finally unleashing

  • 2
    I think there are also shades of Hank being a prison guard, and that he was the one who walked Leticia's husband to the electric chair. Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 19:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .