Citizenfour review – gripping Snowden documentary offers portrait of power, paranoia and one remarkable man | Film | The Guardian.

Citizenfour review – gripping Snowden documentary offers portrait of power, paranoia and one remarkable man

Laura Poitras’s film shows the first extensive interviews with Edward Snowden after he blew the whistle on NSA and government intrusion
5 out of 5
Citizenfour aka Edward Snowden. Photograph: The Guardian/EPA
Calm and reasonable … Citizenfour aka Edward Snowden. Photograph: The Guardian/EPA

This documentary is about that very remarkable man, the former NSA intelligence analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden, shown here speaking out personally for the first time about all the staggering things governments are doing to our privacy.

Fundamentally, privacy is being abolished – not eroded, not diminished, not encroached upon, but abolished. And being constructed in its place is a colossal digital new Stasi, driven by a creepy intoxication with what is now technically possible, combined with politicians’ age-old infatuation with bullying, snooping and creating mountains of bureaucratic prestige for themselves at the expense of the snooped-upon taxpayer.

Yet in spite of the evidence put in the public domain about this – due to Snowden’s considerable courage – there has been a bafflingly tepid response from the libertarian right, who have let themselves be bamboozled by the “terrorism” argument. There’s also been a worrying placidity from some progressive opinion-formers who appear to assume that social media means we have surrendered our right to privacy. But we haven’t.

Watch a video review of Citizenfour

Laura Poitras’s film shows the first extensive interviews with Edward Snowden, conducted in his hotel room in Hong Kong when he first revealed his information to reporter Glenn Greenwald: Snowden contacted him under the handle Citizenfour. Greenwald wrote about it for Salon, in his book No Place to Hide and for this newspaper. Snowden risked his neck, revealing that despite official statements to the contrary, the US and the UK were widely using their ability to eavesdrop upon every phone call, every email, every internet search, every keystroke. The pre-emptive mining of data has gone beyond suspicion of terrorist activity. As Snowden says: “We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind,” and a martial law for intercepting telecommunication is being created by stealth. This is despite the bland denials of every official up to and including President Obama, whose supercilious claim to have been investigating the issue before the Snowden revelations has been brutally exposed by this film.

Snowden himself seems notably calm and reasonable. Where Julian Assange is mercurial, Snowden is geeky and imperturbable, with a laid-back voice that sounds like that of Seth Rogen. Pressure that would have caused anyone else to crack seems to have have no real effect on Snowden, and he appears unemotional even as he reveals how he had to leave his partner, Lindsay Mills, in the dark. (She is now living with him in Russia, where he is in exile, a country whose own record on civil liberties provide a scalding irony.)

There are moments of white-knuckle paranoia. The interview is interrupted by a continuous alarm bell; Snowden calls down to reception, who tell him it’s a routine fire drill. Snowden is satisfied by the explanation, but disconnects the phone in case it is bugged. When he types key passwords into his laptop he covers his head and arms in a bizarre shroud, like an old-fashioned photographer, so he can’t be filmed. This is what he calls his “magic mantle of power”. It looks absurd, but it isn’t precisely melodramatic, and Snowden seems as if he both knows what he is doing and appreciates the absurdity of it all.

Meanwhile, governmental forces are ranged against him – and against ordinary citizens making a stand against snooping. Poitras shows us a scene from a US court case in which AT&T phone customers took action against having their affairs pried into. A sycophantic, bow-tied lawyer for the government tries to suggest that a court is not the proper place to discuss the matter. When a plain-speaking judge rebuked this weasel, I felt like cheering.

So what else can be done? There is a funny moment when Citizenfour shows how German chancellor Angela Merkel is far from amused at having her mobile phone conversations listened to by the NSA. It was an exquisite moment of diplomatic froideur and possibly did more to make Obama take this seriously than anything else.

Now activists are warning of “linkability”. In US cities, subway commuters are being asked to put their transit pass accounts on their actual credit cards. One card fits all, and also gives officialdom access to a whole lot more of your information. British cities are being encouraged to do the same thing with “contactless” cards. Maybe we all need to think again. Citizenfour is a gripping record of how our rulers are addicted to gaining more and more power and control over us – if we let them.

‘True Detective’ Finale Review: Close to Perfection – The Daily Beast.

True Detective
Young True Detective

Good and Evil


‘True Detective’ Finale Review: Close to Perfection

Sunday’s finale of ‚True Detective‘ was the perfect conclusion to a series that has come close to perfection. To stick around any longer would have broken the spell.
On Sunday night, the first season of HBO’s deep, dark crime drama True Detective came to a close. It wasn’t your average season finale. Usually with a show you love—Mad Men, Game of Thrones, whatever—you know your favorite characters will be returning in a year or two. Their narrative will continue. But True Detective is different. From the start, creator Nic Pizzolatto designed it as an anthology series. One story per season. Beginning, middle, and end.This means that, as of Sunday night, the tale of Rust Cohle, Marty Hart, and the 17-year search for the man who murdered Dora Lange is officially over. The Yellow King is a thing of the past. Carcosa is no more. And Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson won’t be coming back. The second season of True Detective will tell a different story—with different characters, different actors, and a different setting.

And I, for one, couldn’t be happier.

I thought Sunday’s finale („Form and Void“) was the perfect conclusion to a series that has come as close to perfection over the course of its eight all-too-brief episodes as any I can remember. To stick around any longer—as much as I adore Rust and Marty and the whole Carcosa mystery—would have broken the spell. And to tie things up in any other way would have betrayed what the first season of True Detective was all about.

Before I explain why, let’s review what happened in „Form and Void.“

Or rather, let’s review what didn’t happen. (Warning: stop reading now if you haven’t seen the finale yet. The rest of this review will consist of nothing but spoilers.) We didn’t meet a tentacled Yellow King from another dimension. We didn’t step through some sort of mystical portal and enter the Lovecraftian land of Carcosa. We didn’t reenact the Vietnam War or discover that Marty’s father-in-law had raped Marty’s daughter. We didn’t find out that Marty was really the killer, or that Rust was really the killer, or that the guy at the banh mi place was really the killer. We didn’t unravel a „five horsemen“ conspiracy that went all the way to the top—to Sen. Eddie Tuttle. We didn’t fulfill the Internet’s wildest expectations.

Instead, we got exactly the finale that Pizzolatto had promised us all along: no alarms, no surprises—for the first three-quarters of the episode, at least. „I cannot think of anything more insulting as an audience than to go through eight weeks, eight hours with these people, and then to be told it was a lie—that what you were seeing wasn’t really what was happening,“ he told me earlier this year. „The show’s not trying to outsmart you.”

And so Marty, on a hunch, searched through the canvassing photos that he and Rust had snapped in 1995 while investigating the Lange murder near Erath. He stumbled on a shot of a freshly painted green house. „Why green ears?“ he asked his partner, referring to the police sketch of the so-called „spaghetti monster“ who had chased a young girl through the woods decades back. „Maybe [the killer] painted that house,“ Marty suggested. Before long, Rust and Marty had dug up the contractor’s name— Childress and Son. That led them to the Childress homestead, a decaying white clapboard building in the middle of the Louisiana swamp, which in turn led them to Errol Childress: the lawnmower man, the illicit grandson of Sam Tuttle, the man with the scars, the spaghetti monster, the killer.

Childress sure was creepy: married to his half-sister, who was apparently raped by his grandfather; surrounded by decrepit dolls; in the habit of referring to sex as „making flowers“; prone to adopting a James Mason accent for no discernible reason. Childress even kept his dead father Billy bound up and rotting in a nearby shack, Psycho-style. But after leading Rust into some sort of a brick building clearly designed by the same twig-loving decorator who had created all those devilcatchers, the spaghetti monster finally met his match. Rust was stabbed. Marty was hatcheted. Childress was shot in the head.

In short, our detectives got their man.

And that’s it. That’s all that „happened,“ plot-wise, in „Form and Void.“ But a lot more was going on—especially in the last 15 minutes of the episode.

I’m sure that the web will spend most of this week obsessing over the more supernatural elements of Sunday’s finale. What did the drawings on the side of Childress’s shack—an ascending figure with antlers surrounded by black stars and flowers—really mean? Why did Childress tell Rust to „take off [his] mask“? And what the heck did Rust see in the domed „Carcosa“ throne room before Childress leapt from the shadows and stabbed him? Was it some sort of astronomical hallucination? Or was he „mainlining the secret truth of the universe“ again?

But as enjoyable as this sort of literary trainspotting can be, I also consider it window dressing. The true meaning of True Detective doesn’t have all that much to do with Robert Chambers or the stories he wrote way back in 1895. Instead, the true meaning of True Detective is about the power of storytelling itself.

I’ve advanced this theory before. But the final moments of „Form and Void“—the conversation between Rust and Marty outside the hospital where they’ve been recuperating after their bloody encounter with Childress—made the show’s intentions clearer than ever.

In the earliest episodes of True Detective, Pizzolatto established a clear dichotomy. On the one hand, there’s investigation—storytelling as a search for the truth. On the other hand, there’s religion—storytelling as an escape from the truth.

It’s no accident, for instance, that the religious task force led by the Rev. Billy Lee Tuttle swoops in during Episode 2 and tries to stymie Rust and Marty’s investigation (as I wrote last week). It’s no accident that when the case subsides, Marty joins Promise Keepers. It’s no accident that before she died, Dora Lange told her friends that she had been “going to church.” And finally it’s no accident, as we learned in Episode 7, that Tuttle’s Christian charter schools were feeders—and Tuttle’s ministry a cover story—for the pagan Yellow King-Carcosa cult that seems to be some sort of sadistic Tuttle family tradition.

Pizzolatto could have made the Tuttles a clan of psychopathic murderers. He didn’t. He made them a clan of psychopathic murderers who subscribe to a very specific theology: a theology that alludes, crucially, to The King in Yellow—an external narrative that is supposed to create insanity, or as Pizzolatto “prefer[s]” to put it, “deranged enlightenment,” which sounds a lot like a skeptic’s view of religion as a whole. In other words, both Christianity and “Carcosa” are stories. Stories people tell themselves to escape reality. Stories that “violate every law of the universe“ (as Rust once put it).

Of course Christianity and the Carcosa cult aren’t the same thing. But take your “fairy tales” too far, Pizzolatto seems to be arguing, and you can wind up in some pretty sick places.

There is, however, an antidote.

Throughout True Detective, Pizzolatto has linked blindness—an unseeing state—to the victims of the Carcosa cult. Dora Lange was wearing a blindfold when she was discovered in a prayer position at the base of that tree. („“In order to effectively pray you’re going to have to ignore some very basic facts about the world,“ Pizzolatto once told me. „In order to mean it.”) Marie Fontenot was wearing a blindfold on the gruesome videotape that Rust found in Billy Lee Tuttle’s safe. And even Errol Childress chimed in during Sunday’s finale. „It’s been weeks since I left my mark,“ he said in his jaunty British accent. „Would that they had eyes to see.“

But when Rust and Marty once again partner up in Episode 7—when they once again became true detectives, or storytellers in search of the truth—Rust delivers a line that pits what they do against what storytellers like Errol Childress do.

„I won’t avert my eyes,“ Rust says. „Not again.“

On True Detective, investigation—“looking for narrative [and] build[ing] a story, day after day,” in Marty’s words—is how you „see the light.“ In the season’s final scene, Marty and Rust leave the hospital. They still bicker like brothers, but their bond is strong. In a rare moment of vulnerability, Rust tells Marty he „shouldn’t be here.“ He says that when he was unconscious, he could sense „[his] definitions fading“ in „the darkness“; he felt „nothing but“ his dead daughter’s „love.“ He wanted to let go, but then he woke up. He begins to weep.

Marty puts a hand on his partner’s shoulder and tries to comfort him. „Hey,“ he says. „Didn’t you tell me one time … you used to make up stories about the stars?“

„Yeah, I was in Alaska,“ Rust says. „I never watched a TV ‚til I was 17. Wasn’t much to do there. So I’d look up at the stars and make up stories.“

Rust pauses for a moment. „I tell you, Marty,“ he finally says. „I been in that room, looking out those windows, just thinking. It’s just one story. The oldest.“

„What’s that?“ Marty asks.

„Light versus dark,“ Rust says.

And that’s the power of storytelling. Sure, you can tell stories about black stars. You can even choose to believe them. But you can also tell stories, like Rust and Marty, that shed light on things. The great achievement of Season 1 of True Detective is that Pizzolatto, McConaughey, Harrelson, and director Cary Fukunaga have created a show about a subject this serious—the ways that narrative itself can generate both good and evil—that is also, somehow, a grand, intoxicating entertainment: brilliantly acted, beautifully directed, and never, ever dull.

Eventually, Marty responds. „I know we ain’t in Alaska,“ he says. „But it appears to me the dark has a lot more territory.“

At first, Rust agrees. As it says in Genesis 1:2, „the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.“ But then he reconsiders—and this is Pizzolatto’s only twist. In the last seconds of the season, the nihilism and misanthropy that have characterized Rust’s worldview soften, however briefly, as he realizes that maybe he is here for a reason.

„You’re looking at it wrong,“ Rust mutters. „The sky thing.“

„How’s that?“ Marty replies.

„Well, once there was only dark,“ Rust says. „You ask me, the light’s winning.“

TV-Serie „True Detective“: Mord als Meditation | ZEIT ONLINE.

Mord als Meditation

Zwei Cops, Evangelikale und ein Ritualmord in Louisiana: Die HBO-Serie „True Detective“ ist eine großartige Erzählung mit Mut zur Langsamkeit. von 

Wenn eine Krimi-Serie ohne Polizei-Sirenen auskommt, muss es sich um etwas Besonderes handeln. Bis in True Detective das typische Heulen zu hören ist, dauert es fast drei Stunden. Erst dann haben die beiden Polizisten Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) und Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) die erste wirkliche Spur, die sie zum Hauptverdächtigen eines Ritualmords führen soll. Bis dahin gibt es weder Cliffhanger noch bemühte Spannungsbögen. Die neue HBO-Serie, die ab 13. Januar auf Sky Go läuft, ist eine große Erzählung, die das Krimi-Genre auf eine neue Ebene hebt.

Die Grundkoordinaten wirken zunächst bekannt: Zwei ungleiche Cops, die Sümpfe von Louisiana und ein mysteriöser Ritualmord an einer jungen Prostituierten. Doch True Detective geht eine Ebene tiefer und siedelt seine Geschichte auf zwei unterschiedlichen Erzählebenen an.

Die erste spielt im Jahr 1995. Hart und Cohle sind seit drei Monaten Partner bei der Kriminalbehörde des Bundesstaates. Der Familienvater Hart ist der Prototyp des Südstaatencop, Christ natürlich, „wie jeder hier im Umkreis von 1.000 Meilen“. Cohle ist ein alkoholabhängiger Misanthrop. Hart vertraut seinen Instinkten, Cohle den Kriminalistikbüchern, die sich in seinem unmöblierten Apartment stapeln.

Die beiden ermitteln im Fall von Dora Lange, einer minderjährigen Prostituierten, die unter Drogen gesetzt und ermordet worden ist. Doch ihr Mörder hat sie nicht einfach in der Einöde liegen lassen, er hat aus ihrem Tod eine Inszenierung gemacht. Vor einem der alten Bäume hat er sie in Gebetshaltung angebunden, ihr eine Dornenkrone und das Geweih eines Hirschs aufgesetzt.

Die zweite Ebene spielt 17 Jahre später. Hart und Cohle sitzen nun plötzlich selbst in zwei separaten Befragungen und sollen einem anderen Polizisten-Duo erklären, wie sie damals den Fall gelöst haben – und warum sie sich einige Zeit später getrennt haben. Anscheinend hat es einen neuen, ganz ähnlichen Mord gegeben. Was genau vorgefallen ist, erfährt der Zuschauer jedoch nicht.

Je länger die Geschichte andauert und je mehr Details 17 Jahre später über das Leben von Hart und Cohle bekannt werden – desto deutlicher wird, was hier der eigentliche Fall ist. Wer sind diese beiden Cops wirklich? Und was hat ihr Leben so verändert?

Das Besondere an True Detective  ist jedoch weniger die Geschichte als das ungewöhnlich langsame Tempo. Serien wie The Wire haben sich zwar schon vorher viel Zeit gelassen, um eine raumgreifende Story zu entwickeln. True Detective ähnelt jedoch fast schon einer Meditation. In den besten Szenen sitzen die beiden Cops schweigend in ihrem Auto, endlos unterwegs auf ihren Ermittlungen, die lange Zeit vollkommen ins Leere zu laufen scheinen.

Dass dies funktioniert, liegt an der grandiosen Schauspielleistung der beiden Hauptdarsteller Harrelson und McConaughey. Beide stammen aus dem Süden der USA. Beiden ist anzumerken, dass sie die Charaktere dieser Gegend genau kennen. Sie müssen nicht viel reden, um ihren Figuren Tiefe zu verleihen.

Viele Fernsehserien leiden häufig an zwei Schwachstellen: Erstens ist fast immer unklar, auf wie lange die Serie konzipiert ist. Das führt schnell dazu, dass sich so manche Geschichte über die Jahre etwas wirr entwickelt. Zweitens kommt es quasi nie vor, dass ein Autor und ein Regisseur zu zweit die Möglichkeit bekommen, eine ganze Staffel alleine zu bestreiten. Meist sind nur Schauspieler und Setting die Konstante, die Film-Crews hingegen wechseln ständig.

Beides ist bei True Detective anders. HBO hat die gesamte Staffel von Nic Pizzolatto schreiben und von Cary Fukunaga filmen lassen. Autor und Regisseur hatten nicht nur die Möglichkeit, eine in sich geschlossene Erzählung auszuarbeiten, die auf exakt acht Stunden ausgelegt ist. Sie hatten ebenso die Chance, ihren eigenen Ton zu setzen. Nach acht Folgen der ersten Staffel wird der Mordfall Lange aufgeklärt sein. Die Geschichte von Russ Cohle und Martin Hart findet dann ihr Ende.

Nicht jeder Plot braucht acht Stunden. Und zwei so exzellente Schauspieler für eine Serie zu gewinnen, ist ein Glücksfall. Wenn das Fernsehen gegenüber dem Film jedoch eine große Stärke hat, dann ist es der Faktor Zeit. True Detective könnte eine neue Vorlage zu einer Art Autoren-Serie werden. Denn manche Geschichten verdienen es, so ausführlich erzählt zu werden.