Patty Hearst

Patty Hearst ★★★★

The beginning, in which Patty is kidnapped and Schrader films her captors from her perspective as harsh backlight washes out figures and overwhelms eyes accustomed to darkness, is so stunningly unnerving and even reminded me of Pedro Costa in its static but charged framing. (Schrader, it now occurs to me, is perhaps the definitive American filmmaker of enclosed, claustrophobic spaces.) Once Patty becomes welcomed into the fold of her kidnappers' army, the film literally and figuratively opens up, becoming a kind of parodic midpoint between a Carpenter thriller and La Chinoise. It's obvious that Schrader's sympathies lie with Patty and that his opinion of the SLA ranges from amused contempt to bemused contempt, and he wrings something surprisingly funny from the film's initial rush of terror. Patty may be explicitly a victim here, but Schrader does leave some degree of ambiguity in her behavior toward the end, when she displays lingering resentments of the power structures that "saved" her even when finally free of her captors. The knife-sharp grin on Richardson's face when Patty gives her occupation as urban guerrilla is worth the price of admission.