US, 1988, 108 minutes, Colour.
Natasha Richardson, William Forsythe, Ving Rhames, Frances Fisher, Jodi Long, Dana Delaney.
Directed by Paul Schrader.
Patty Hearst was the granddaughter of press tycoon, William Randolph Hearst of San Simeone fame (and the subject, disguised, of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane).
The been a number of films about Patty Hearst and her being abducted during the 1970s, including The Ordeal of Patty Hearst (directed by Paul Wendkos, starring Lisa Eilbacher, 1979). In the 70s and 80s, her ordeal was well known, her being abducted, being brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army, being forced to participate in bank robberies, an illustration of the Stockholm Syndrome and her being sympathetic to her captors.
The screenplay of the film raises the question of whether Patty Hearst was completely brainwashed or went along with the experience with the rebels, pretending to be part of the group.
The film gives something of the background of the Hearst family, of the 1970s in California, the University of Berkeley. Natasha Richardson is an interesting choice to play Patty Hearst. Some up-and-coming actors at the time, on screen and on television, were part of the group including William Forsyth, Ving Rhames, Frances Fisher, Dana Delaney.
The film is also interesting as being directed by Paul Schrader who came to prominence with his screenplays in the 1970s, especially for Martin Scorsese, including Taxi Driver and, in the 80s, The Last Temptation of Christ. Schrader moved into directing himself in the late 1970s with such films as Blue Collar, Hardcore. His career as director was very mixed, his films include Affliction, Auto Focus, the prequel to The Exorcist, Dominion, The Walker. He made a bizarre film with Lindsay Lohan at a bizarre time in her life and career, The Canyons. Latterly, he was very successful with his religious exploration, First Rerformed.
1. Based on actual events? Actual characters? The interpretation? Patty Hearst’s perspective and writing? Audience knowledge about her and the Symbionese liberation Army?
2. California in the 1970s, the Berkeley campus, the Hearsts and their wealth, the influence of the Hearsts? The experience of the kidnapping? The musical score?
3. The Symbionese Liberation Army? Origins, causes, in the era of protest groups, in Europe, the US? Socialist, racial? Anticapitalism?
4. The range of members of the cell, African- Americans, Whites? Cinque and the leadership? His ideology, emotions, action, rebellion? As a leader, in the kidnapping, talking at Patty, with her, the threats, bullying, his regime, action and bank robbery? His status?
5. Teko, the white member, sometimes posing as black? His character, ideology, personal impact? With Cinque? With Patty? In action, the training, restless, the robbery? The retirement? His relationship with Yolanda, her detesting him? Working with him?
6. Yolanda, the other women, African- Americans, white, believing the causes, their behaviour, interactions? With Tanya? The robbery? Sexual advances? The move to Los Angeles, Yolanda organising the robbery, the deaths? Wendy as the host in Los Angeles, the garden, the attitudes?
7. Patty, aged 19, the voice-over, the narration and the perspective? The shock of the kidnapping, in the boot of the car, the silence, the dark room, the blindfold for so long, food, toilets, sexual? The stylised presentation of the door continually opening, the angle of those talking with Patty, the quick succession? Her behaviour, the threats and the effect?
8. The Stockholm Syndrome, the change in Patty, feeling free, identifying with the group? Her speech, the denunciations, the tapes, her role in the media?
9. The effect on her, recognising the characters and their names? Going through the training,, living conditions, relationships? The months passing? Her acting and her interior life and sense of freedom?
10. The bank robbery, the style, Patty not being able to give her full speech? The money, the group revelling in the cash?
11. The second robbery, the shooting? The escape?
12. The issues of cars, guns, taking the car from the Latino? Getting the boy and his cutting the handcuffs Teko?
13. Wendy, the hideout, her garden, with the others?
14. The FBI, police, setting the house on fire? The deaths?
15. The arrest, Patty stating her occupation as urban terrorist?
16. Prison, making the tapes, the lawyers, the reactions, the further tapes?
17. The lawyer, the argument with the police, in court? Her dissatisfaction? Giving testimony? The impression she made? The guilty verdict, from each member of the jury?
18. Her meeting with her father, her attitude “fuck everyone” at the end?
19. The final information, Teko and Yolanda and their work after prison? Wendy in prison? The information about Patty Hearst, going back to her family, her marriage, work, appearing in films? The pardon?