J. Edgar (2011)

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In den USA ins Kino zu gehen, ist im Prinzip wie in Deutschland. Ein gewichtiger Unterschied ist allerdings das Popcorn: Für fünf Dollar bekommt man eine Packung, die einem den kompletten Magen zupappt. Und das Zeug ist salzig. Und es gibt eine Stati0n, an der es flüssige Ersatzbutter und Nachopulver und anderen ekligen Kram gibt.

Achja, einen Film habe ich auch gesehen: J. Edgar von Clint Eastwood. Hier ist er seit Anfang November draußen, Deutschland muss noch bis Februar warten.

Der Kram ist wieder Englisch, weil ich die Review für nen Kurs eingereicht habe.

How authentic can the biography of a person as secretive as J. Edgar Hoover be? The man who uncovered other’s secrets knew best how to keep his own. Director Clint Eastwood took on the challenge with a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black.

“J. Edgar” tells the story of FBI-founder Hoover from the 1919 anarchist bombings until his death in 1972. Leonardo DiCaprio portraits the young, ambitious employee in the Department of Justice who worked his way up to the bureau through absolute conviction and a burning hatred for everything communist.

The film balances its focus between Hoover’s work for the FBI and his alleged gay relationship to his second-in-command, Clyde Tolson, played by Armie Hammer. The film also balances times: Shortly before Hoover’s death, he tells his biographers about his early work as director of the FBI. This leaves the viewer somewhat confused – if you don’t concentrate, the film will lose its coherency.

The story draws much of its fascination from its historical accuracy, at least concerning the story of the FBI. Hoover had been director of the bureau for 48 years, serving under eight presidents. Even though they were his superiors, he remained the constant. And even though he had to wait in front of the Oval Office eight times, he walked out eight times having secured his position. From a single personal secret file to cabinets full of information about his personal enemies (and friends), from the early struggles to establish his agency to unlimited resources and man power, Hoover stacked information as well as power.

Hoover proves to be an unreliable narrator, distorting the past to make himself look good. This, however, is only revealed at the very end and overshadows the film’s central scene exemplary of Hoover’s and Tolson’s relationship – the breakfast before Hoover’s death.

Much of the film has DiCaprio and Hammer in heavy make-up to make them look over sixty, looking good while they’re standing still, but concealing any facial expression. Different actors might have worked better, especially in a film that relies so heavily on acting rather than action.

The richness of detail is intriguing, however. It is only by paying close attention that the viewer notices Hoover’s glasses of wine, even though he demands abstinence from his agents, or his new fireplace – the same he envied Robert Kennedy for.

His fellow actors pale compared to DiCaprio. He does a terrific job switching between Hoover’s personalities, showing him as a meticulous, determined power wolf as well as a frail, neurotic, insecure homosexual. Only Hammer comes close in acting, at least during those scenes showing Hoover’s strained and awkward love for Tolson.

Director Clint Eastwood did his best to let the viewer understand the film’s dynamic. A chronological setup would not have worked as well in explaining Hoover. Still, the film is not easy to digest. This impression is fueled by the extensive portrayal of a relationship that is, at best, speculative. Hoover’s professional and private life as shown by the film fit together organically, but the question remains how authentic the story is.

Vielleicht noch eine kleine kulturelle Beobachtung am Ende: Während der Szene, als Hoover Tolston auf die Stirn küsst (nicht so der krasse Spoiler), sind wenigstens fünf Leute aus dem Saal gegangen. Es ist eben der Bible Belt hier.

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