The following is in response to the film “Capote” written by Dan Futterman and directed by Bennett Miller. The film is based on a biography of writer Truman Capote of the same name, written by Gerald Clarke.
In this well-constructed film, Capote’s character births a new form of writing—the non-fictional novel. Though it is undeniable that Truman Capote’s masterpiece “In Cold Blood” has influenced the popularization of this genre, scholars have suggested that Operación Masacre by Argentine author and journalist Rodolfo Walsh was the first non-fiction novel (Waisbord, p.282).
What I love about the film is the way the main character (Truman) is showed in a not-so-perfect light. In a review of the film titled “Capote: Archetypal Quest of the Other,” writer Mark Rafidi suggests “…Truman Capote…is that of the questing hero or outsider, ‘Other’, and his ethics are questionable (Screen Education, p.107).” That not-so-perfect light and questionable ethics that I and Rafidi are referring to are that Truman’s character often lies in the film and manipulates people to get the information that he needs for his novel. To quote Rafidi’s telling review, “Miller [director of the film Bennett Miller] raises several ethical questions during the course of the film: who is more emotionless—Capote or the murderers? Who is guilty of preying upon the innocent (Screen Education, p.109)?”
One of the important things that the film says about writing the non-fictional novel is the importance of the writer playing the role of an observer. This genre of writing is done well when description is more concrete—one of the key reasons why Capote’s novel was so successful—and this is shown throughout the film with all the lingering shots of the Clutter’s home (the victims in the murder case).