Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst

Director Robert Stone affects to remain in the background, but his choice of interviews and clips makes the underlying message of his documentary clear - Patty Hearst did more than just grow up and sell out to the bourgeoisie. Apparently without regrets and protected from the more severe consequences of her actions by Presidential pardons, she allowed herself to be quickly reassimilated into the privileged elite, abandoning adopted cause and comrades. (What she herself feels about all this we never discover.)

In spite of all the talk of Stockholm Syndrome, Hearst and her captors were impressionable proto-adults experiencing the desperate, doomed idealism common to the pre-mortgage and kids stage of the lifecycle. There was probably little actual brainwashing involved in her transformation into 'Tania' - certainly no more than when any over-protected young girl suddenly falls in with a charismatic new crowd.

These slightly deranged radicals at war with their parents were analogues of their more numerous and organised peers in contemporary Argentina, who became the victims of an extremely dirty war. Stone suggests that the ill-fated Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was treated in a similarly heavy-handed manner.

It's intriguing to see how an isolated group of Latin-style urban guerillas briefly took on the cynical side of America back in the early 70s. They somehow managed to blackmail the Hearst family into feeding the poor of California, yet they also took a number of ordinary lives carelessly. It all seems rather unthinkable now, but memories of Che were still fresh then.

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