It was sometime in 2006 I guess that Capote was released in Australia. I really wanted to see the movie mainly because it also involved the story of Nelle Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Some months back, here in Redmond, while updating my Netflix queue I remembered this and added the movie to my queue. Steadily it made its way to the top until it was next in line. For some reason I clicked on it and read the reviews.
They were surprisingly polarized. There were those who gave it 5/5 or 4/5 and then those who gave it 1/5 and panned it big time. One thing common to all those who gave it a good rating was that they had read the book “In Cold Blood” written by Truman Capote. I dropped the movie down the queue and put a hold on the book.
Around mid-April I started reading the book. Its about the murder of a rich farmer’s family of 4. Him, his wife, daughter and son – the children being teenagers. The murderers are tracked down and arrested, tried and eventually sentenced to death and hanged. Am not letting out anything, as the main story is known to you right from the beginning. The author talks of it as 6 deaths including the hanging of the murderers.
What is amazing about the book is the character development. Over a period of time, as you page through the book you form a mental map of the characters and kinda almost know the way they think and would react to certain situations. The author clearly has an obsession with the murderers. It gets disturbing at points as you hear about their lives and the night they killed and the motive for it.
The book took a while reading as it isn’t the fastest you can come across but made for good reading nonetheless. It is in the same genre as Innocent Man by John Grisham and is apparently the first ‘Non-fiction novel’ ever.
And then I watched Capote. This movie belongs totally to Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays the character of Truman Capote amazingly well. Capote was known to be gay and Hoffman’s gay mannerisms take a while getting used to. His obsession with the murderers is lucidly dissected. But unless you have read the book you’d really doze off. The book and knowledge of it is what keeps you glued as the movie further dissects its characters.
Capote is torn between sympathy for the murderers (one of them in fact) and trying to get the book finished. He realizes that the best ending is for them to get hanged while he’s still helping them appeal to different courts. He becomes obsessed with one of the murderers and gets to the point where he thinks they are like twins who got separated. However, the account of the murder itself shocks him and puts him into further depression. Fact is, Truman Capote died of alcoholism and he couldn’t complete even a single book after this one. It remains his last and best offering.
I’d say read the book and then watch the movie. The book can stand by itself, but not the movie. However someone who has watched the movie without reading it might have a different opinion.