“I’m caught in a whirlwind
I’m going to heaven
I’m standing on trial and it’s painted on canvas
An eternal testament to how we are so animalistic ”
– Ashamed, by Deertick
Oliver Stone has quite the track record when it comes to biopics. With three films based on former United States Presidents (JFK, Nixon and W.), and an additional feature about the man who is arguably the most influential leader in the history of Western Civilization (Alexander) he is no stranger to the complexity of the human spirit caught in flight between the firmament of absolute truth and the gravity of the world as it is, with mankind’s’ jealousy and corruption dragging down the state. These men all stood on the precipice of a great decline — a potential implosion of their societies — and in their own respective ways tried to arrest the social decay and abuses they saw eating at their population.
So too, Snowden. The character studies his previous films became have been criticized by some for being sympathetic. But for his own part, Stone has insisted sympathy was never his goal. In an industry that has relied on the formula of the Hero’s Journey, Oliver Stone has attempted many times to break the mold and create a fresh perspective for informed audiences of his historical dramas. With Snowden we finally watch this alternate narrative truly flourish. The audience isn’t left loving or hating Edward. Instead we gain an understanding of the weight of this man’s convictions. This understanding forces viewers to question themselves and in that way develop empathy for the subject. Could you stand up against the great beast? How would you endure, not knowing if you’d be destroyed by a seemingly all-powerful super state or exonerated by the people it was supposed to protect?
During a recent interview at the Harvard Institute of Politics Stone told Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind that he initially had turned down the option to make the film. It’s not usually a good investment to tell the story of someone who is still making headlines. The potential for us to come to a conclusion about the subject that will later be abrogated by some startling and unforeseen revelation is too great. If such details unfold, the integrity of the film you’ve made is irreparably damaged. It was only after being contacted by Ed Snowden’s Russian lawyer — who has also authored an untranslated spy novel about a conflicted whistle blower — he began to warm up to the idea. Meeting Snowden in Moscow several times the director learned there was an opportunity to tell a story that would persuade theater goers to question both themselves and the government. Read more »