The true story of gay lovers, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr. who kidnapped and murdered a child in the early 1920s for kicks. The plot covers the months before the crime, the ...
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The true story of gay lovers, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr. who kidnapped and murdered a child in the early 1920s for kicks. The plot covers the months before the crime, the investigation, trial and final fate of the two men.Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Stylish, Yet Disturbing, Retelling of Leopold and Loeb Case
Director Tom Kalin took the Leopold and Loeb murder case of the 1920s, which already had been the basis of such films as "Rope" and "Compulsion," and filmed the sordid episode as an exercise in style with flashes of homo-erotic imagery. In his film, "Swoon," Kalin does not flinch from either the murderers' ethnic background or their sexual orientation, although the part that either aspect of their makeup may have played in the crime was not explored. Utilizing haunting black-and-white cinematography by Ellen Kuras, documentary footage from the period, and an often-melancholy score by James Bennett, Kalin fashioned a strangely fascinating look at the aimless lives of two young men with too much money and too much time.
Although the two youths are lovers in the physical sense, their partnership seems to have been born more of boredom than passion. Their lovemaking has eroticism, but it lacks fire. The pair performs more like two bored schoolboys passing a rainy afternoon pleasuring each other than like two men with deep emotional ties. Tragically, this passionless attraction spawns what appears to be an equally passionless crime. The plot to kidnap and murder a young boy seems to have been born of the same boredom that gave rise to Leopold's and Loeb's erotic desires. The two young men have no emotion either before or after the murder, although there is a flash of zeal on the killer's face during and shortly after the murder. The men's demeanor throughout the interrogation and trial suggests a complete lack of, not only remorse, but also comprehension that they have taken a human life. The duo bicker about the details of the crime as though they were trying to recall what they ate for breakfast. The men are distanced not only from the crime, but also from any semblance of humanity.
Appropriately, the sharp light and shade contrasts in the stark photography at times make the film resemble a silent horror film, because "Swoon" is a horror show at its core. These two men are like monsters that were created without souls and that lie in wait until idle thoughts prompt them to fill their empty hours with crime. The languid air that pervades the film underscores the tedium of their existence. Kalin tracks the two men to the ends of their lives and leaves the viewer with an ambivalent feeling about whether or not justice was ever served. Like "In Cold Blood," however, "Swoon" focuses on and almost celebrates the two killers, while the innocent young victim is reduced to a nearly anonymous figure. Thus, "Swoon" is often a difficult film to watch, yet, despite lingering and disturbing thoughts afterward, Kalin has fashioned an intelligent, intriguing work that merits attention.
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