“When you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a writer for The New Yorker when after reading a small blurb in the paper on the murder of the Cutter family, he decides to travel to Kansas and write an article about the crime’s affect on local residents. Taking Harper Lee (Catherine Kenner) along with him for the ride, he arrives in Holcomb, Kansas. While Capote seems at his witty element in New York high society, when he arrives in Kansas, he might as well have traveled to another planet. Indeed his book, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is banned at the local library. One of the film’s early scenes shows Capote approaching FBI Agent Dewey (Chris Cooper) for an interview, and the exchange illustrates how Capote simply doesn’t compute the situation he’s in–he comments that he doesn’t care one way or another if the killers are caught, and thus immediately alienates Dewey who knew the Cutter family personally.
When the killers are caught, Capote becomes so involved in the case that he decides to write a book. Somehow he senses that the book–In Cold Blood will be the best thing he ever writes, and by the end of the film, he acknowledges that the experience changed his life.
Capote wisely doesn’t tie itself up in the courtroom drama and trial of the two men eventually caught and convicted of the crimes. Instead, the plot concentrates on Truman Capote, his relationship with the two killers, and the genesis of the book, In Cold Blood. Capote is depicted as a fascinating, yet troubled man who develops a symbiotic relationship with the two killers–Perry Smith (Clifton Collins, Jr.) and Richard Hitchock (Mark Pellegrino). Those closest to Capote can’t quite fathom the depth of the relationship Capote develops with the killers–after all, Capote seems to have little in common with these two drifters. But when cornered by Harper Lee about his relationship with Smith in particular, Capote claims: “it’s as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day he went out the back door, and I went out the front.”
While In Cold Blood became Capote’s masterpiece, certainly actor Philip Seymour Hoffman may never surpass the role of Capote. He conveys Capote’s introverted complicated essence, his contorted, duplicitous relationship with Smith and Hitchock, and the ambiguous feelings he experienced towards the killers. This fascinating, stunning film from director Bennett Miller, recreates the story behind the story, and you certainly don’t have to be a Capote fan to enjoy it. DVD extras include commentary by Hoffman, Bennett, and cinematographer, Adam Kimmel, the documentary “Unanswered Prayers” and two behind-the-scenes documentaries.