Saturday, April 10, 2004

Capturing The Friedmans 

The second of the two films, and another real life story, Capturing The Friedmans was a very odd and frustrating film to watch. The audience is constantly in the role of judge, whether intentionally or not. In the later 1980s Arnold and Jesse Friedman were charged with hundreds of counts of child molestation and rape, shortly after Arnold's collection of child porn had been discovered by the police. The film is a documentary, mainly composed of the family's own home shot footage, as the eldest son films them falling apart. But there are interviews, too, arranged by the director, Jarecki, so that only a small amount of information is released at any one time - and this in the same order as he received the information himself.

Particularly interesting are the juxtapositions of completely contradictory testimonies, from all those involved, and the gradual way in which things the family and others have asserted at one point are later re-interpreted, or forgotten, when they become inconvenient to the story they now want to tell. Again, no one comes away wholly innocent, no one wholly unsympathetic. There's a great confusion here, as liberal sympathies constantly pull some to the conclusion that it was a witch trial, while the evidence never allows one to stick with that conclusion for long.

The only point in the film which jarred for me, as for the most part I felt the way the footage was put together was not too leading, was towards the end, when Arnold's brother, who has been talking in places throughout the film, is suddenly filmed with his male partner. The way this is done - a sudden panning out from the one man to two - suggested that this was meant to be yet another 'revelation'; perhaps containing the suggestion that Howard, the brother, hadn't come away completely unscathed from his childhood experiences - was repressing memories of sexual abuse, which he denied - after all, and that these had repressed memories had tunnelled themselves into his own homosexuality. Cod psychology.

But for the most part the film was very well done, and careful never to get caught up in the hysteria surrounding every aspect of the case. And this lack of hysteria in relation to a subject more controversial than ever these days is quite a recommendation.

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