Horror · Movies

Capote, a film by Bennett Miller, 2005

Granted, I haven’t actually read In Cold Blood or Breakfast at Tiffany’s yet, but for some reason I always imagined Truman Capote as a sort of gangster-esque character. A real burly manly man in a trench coat and spats. Imagine my surprise to discover that he was gay! A New Yorker who had to be forced out of his Bergdorf scarf into a business suit when he went to investigate the Kansas murders that inspired his book! I was not expecting that at all and that was just the first of the surprises this film had to offer.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful as Capote, but I was even more struck by Catherine Keener’s performance as Harper Lee, who worked as Capote’s research assistant. Maybe that’s just because To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my most favorite books of all time and it was wonderful to see such a talented actress bringing my beloved author to life. There are just not enough movies about writers and writing, so I drink them up when they appear.

While this movie was really well done, I was extremely disturbed by the content. The relationship that developed between Capote and one of the murdering brothers, who were charged with the murders of an entire family for a grand total of $40, was extremely unnerving and I felt extremely uncomfortable watching it. I tend to imagine myself in other people’s shoes and my stomach hurt just thinking about meeting with a murderer the way that Capote did. Personally, for art or not, I do not understand how someone could sit in the same room as a murderer and say anything to him let alone become his friend. To me, there is nothing, no amount of fame or whatever that would lead me into that scenario. This is most likely because of my own experience with murderers, and obviously I am not meant to write a true-crime book. Capote himself said that it was like he was meant to write In Cold Blood and it would be his defining contribution to America and American literature. He was right. I don’t think many people have the stomach for that kind of thing and I do believe that we all have a specific purpose in this life, or a few purposes, things we are meant to do. I suppose this was Capote’s, and it is good that he figured it out and he saw it to a remarkable conclusion.

The sad thing was that he never published anything again and I wonder what he did all those years after the book came out and his death in 1984. I guess there are some things we are meant to do and once we do them, that is really it. Maybe the rest of our life is colored by that event, we never get over it, or get used to it, yet it is our definitive moment.

Capote is definitely worth a watch. A horror movie in its own way, especially when the murderer describes the night of the killing. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood changed the face of American literature and of American crime, and for this he is owed a great deal of respect. This movie certainly honors him and his work, and left me wanting to learn more about Capote the man and has indeed given me the impetus to read his books at long last.