laura poitras’ citizenfour is long and arduous, not in that it is hard to get through, but in that it so accurately describes the journey edward snowden takes from system analyst at a private firm to political dissident and asylum seeker. a person can be more than a person, and in some cases they are their missions, which is for both poitras and snowden, the starting point for the notion that they go beyond being solely people. there is no mr snowden or no ms poitras. there is only the search for liberty and truth.
the projector, located in golden mile complex, is an ode to cinemas of the past. closely spaced seats and an intimate pre-screening bar area push members of singapore’s growing film community together. and it was at there that citizenfour was screened last night.
there is a great self awareness about the film that carries the viewer through minimal background music, thick dialogue, and irregularly paced scenes. in a way, it is a hard film to get through. some technical terms require adequate knowledge of politics and technology, meaning that for some, just how long some scenes tend to be is a more obvious thing. that is not to say, however, that dialogue they consist of do not adequately communicate the weight of snowden’s cause. once you are past the initial shock that comes with an introduction to poitras’ storytelling, you are able to see just how important, difficult, or painful the living of this story is for the few involved consciously, and the millions who aren’t.
but ultimately, the story the film tells is greater than the film telling it. then again, specificity and precision are seemingly unattainable in and of themselves, for one, and for the other, this story may just be too great, too big, and too vast. no word, film, or image can coherently express what must edward snowden have felt when he decided to leave his life as a systems engineer to expose the undemocratic behaviour of one of the world’s most powerful nations. they cannot also express what must he have felt at each moment of his run from a system that claims to uphold liberty, democracy, and truth, but delivers only a climate of fear.
but the jarring song that signifies the end of the film sums it up perfectly – in our world, there is no room for faintness of heart.