Wednesday, 21 January 2015


A sombre indictment of the state of the world today, as regimes retaliate in wan despair at their ineffectiveness. Our leaders are no longer leading us, they're just spying on us. It's in this understanding, succinctly set out in Citizenfour's chilling opening scenes, that Edward Snowden takes steps toward changing the face of our relationship, as citizens ourselves, with our governing powers. Behind his encrypted messages is a human being, as behind these literally indefensible state-sponsored activities are many human beings. He opens a monologue out into a dialogue, or so is his intention, and risks his livelihood in the process. Laura Poitras cannot help but divulge in a portrait of Snowden himself, who unwittingly becomes the subject of the media attention he has courted out of necessity; the few moments of personal honesty this man allows us are quietly devastating, and barely alleviated by our knowledge of how his story has progressed since the events depicted here. As an explication of those events, thoroughly and precisely, Citizenfour is an invaluable document, though it could only ever be too brief, so alarming is the scale of the betrayal which our leaders have exacted upon us. No matter how often one ruminates over it, it remains a shocking truth, and Citizenfour is at its most potent, and justly so, when it uses its content for that same shock value; there are lengthy passages of dense exposition in reaching those shocking conclusions, but they're worth the effort it takes to wade through them.