Thursday, June 23, 2011

Uncomfortable deception

In these two scenes from very different movies, characters put themselves in awkward situations in order to mislead others.

2001: A Space Odyssey

During a layover at a space station while en route to the moon, American scientist Dr. Heywood Floyd meets a Russian colleague who invites him to sit and have a drink with some friends. After some pleasantries, Floyd is questioned by one man about apparent problems at the American moon base, Clavius. When told that telephone communication with Clavius has been impossible for the past ten days, and that a Russian shuttle was denied an emergency landing there, Floyd claims to be unaware of any problems and becomes silent. When the Russian man persists, asking Floyd about rumors of an epidemic at Clavius, the cornered Floyd sheepishly explains that he is unable to comment on the situation. Floyd's discomfort is palpable, his soft-spoken manner and feeble responses giving the sense that he is being violated, but also concealing something. It is not until his arrival at Clavius that we learn Floyd's manner and answers were part of a deliberate deception to keep Clavius isolated while its crew investigates a discovery of incredible cosmic significance.

A Dry White Season

Donald Sutherland plays Ben du Toit, a white South African who discovers the truth about his country under apartheid. After his black gardener is killed while in police custody, Ben seeks justice, alienating his disapproving wife and daughter in the process. He and a small group of cohorts secretly collect affidavits from witnesses to police brutality, which Ben hides in his garage for eventual publication in a sympathetic newspaper. Under constant surveillance by the police, Ben knows he won't be able to deliver the papers in person, so he offers himself as a diversion instead. In a heartbreaking scene, Ben meets with his estranged daughter and asks if she would keep the papers safe for him, knowing she will betray him and take the decoy package to the police — but also counting on her to do so.


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