Tuesday, May 31, 2011


2005, 114m

Truman Capote was a prominent American writer, known, among other things, for inventing the genre of non-fiction novel. The present film is about how his novel, In Cold Blood, got written. The novel is based on a 1959 multiple murder in an isolated farmhouse, which Capote (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) decided to make the subject of his book. The two killers are arrested and convicted early into the film. Capote, using bribery, lying and influence, is able to enter into a long interaction with one of the two killers, driven by his need to create, not to speak of the associated fame and wealth. He even helps the pair with their appeals, prolonging the legal process by four years.

Apart from the psychological aspects of the criminals, and Capote's own difficult childhood, the film is interesting about the way the novel took shape. At one point he says he feels it as if he and Perry, one of the killers grew up in the same room. He (Capote) escaped from the front door while Perry left from the back door. Capote is completely immersed in his work, and feigns all kinds of deception and sympathy to gain the confidence of Perry, who is the subject of his study. Towards the end, he even longs for the Supreme Court to turn down the last appeal and confirm the sentence, so he can finish his book.

It is an engrossing film which manages to spare us unnecessary depiction of the gruesome events (with the exception of some minimal segments), but the horror is , through indirection, all the more effectively conveyed. Hoffman is adroit in portraying peculiar character types, and this is a film adequate enough to pass an hour or two. It makes up in execution, control and restraint it's lack of depth. It makes me curious to see the movie based on the novel and also to read at least a short story by Capote.


Jack L said...

Glad you liked it,

I thought the film was definitely a bit shallow, but Hoffman was great and I liked the subtleness of his portrayal of the character, how he manipulates the criminal just to get the story he wants.
It made me want to read In Cold Blood.

S. M. Rana said...

Yes, it's the subtlety of the characterization and how he manipulates the criminal that are the strengths of this well made film. I would also like to read the book (the read out excerpts which are part of the film show great power and beauty of language) if time permitted.