Subject #20 – Brief Interviews With Hideous Men

Film:  Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
Year:  2009
Screenplay: John Krasinski (based on short stories by David Foster Wallace)
Role:  Ryan / Subject #20
Actor:  John Krasinski
Length: approx. 5 minutes minimum


Yes, it was a pickup. Plain and simple. And she was what one might call a granola cruncher. A hippie. And she was straight out of central casting: the sandals, flamboyantly long hair, financial support from parents she reviled, and some professed membership in an apostrophe-heavy Eastern religion that I would defy anyone to pronounce correctly. Look, I’ll just bite the political bullet and confess that I classified her as a strictly one-night objective. And that my interest in her was due almost entirely to the fact that, yes, she was pretty. She was sexually attractive. She was sexy. And it was really nothing more complicated or noble than that. And having had some prior dealings with the cruncher genus, I think the one-night proviso was due mostly to the grim unimaginability of having to talk with her for more than one night. Whether or not you approve, I think we can assume you understand. And there’s something in the way – I mean, a near contempt, in the way that you can casually saunter over to her blanket and create the sense of connection that will allow you to pick her up. And you almost resent the fact that it’s so goddamn easy. I mean, how exploitative you feel that it is so easy to get this type to regard you as a kindred soul. I mean, you almost know what’s gonna be said before she even opens her mouth.

Okay, so now there we are in my apartment, and she begins going on about her religious views. Her obscure denomination’s views on energy fields and connections between souls via what she kept calling ‘focus.’ And in response to some sort of prompt or association, she begins to relate this anecdote. And in the anecdote, there she is, hitchhiking. Well, she said she knew she made a mistake the moment she got in the car. Her explanation was that she didn’t actually feel any energy field until she had shut the car’s door and they were moving – at which point it was too late. And she wasn’t melodramatic about it, but she described herself as literally paralyzed with terror. It was something about his eyes. She said she knew instantly in the depths of her soul that this man’s intentions were to brutally rape, torture, and kill her. And that by the time the psychotic had exited into a secluded area and actually said what his true intentions were, she wasn’t the least bit surprised because she knew that she was going to be just another grisly discovery for some amateur botanist or scout troupe a few days later – unless she could focus her way into a soul connection that would prevent this man from murdering her.

I mean to focus intently on this psychotic as an ensouled and beautiful, albeit tormented, person in his own right, rather than merely as a threat to her. And I’m well aware that what she is about to describe is nothing more than a variant of the stale, old love-will-conquer-all, but for the moment, just bracket your contempt and try to see what she actually has the courage and conviction to really attempt here. Because imagine what it must have felt like for her. For anyone. Contemplate just how little-kid-level scared you’d be that this psychotic could bring you to this point simply by wishing it. And now here she is in the car, and she’s realizing that she’s in for the biggest struggle of her spiritual life. She stares directly into the psychopath’s right eye and wills herself to keep her gaze on him directly at all times. And the effects of her focus, she says that when she was able to hold her focus, this psychopath behind the wheel would gradually stop ranting and become tensely silent. And she wills herself not to weep or plead, but merely to use focus as an opportunity to empathize. And this was my first hint of sadness in listening to the anecdote as I found myself admiring certain qualities in her story that were the same qualities I had been contemptuous of when I first picked her up in the park! And then he asked her to get out of the car and lie prone on the ground. And she doesn’t hesitate or beg. She was experiencing a whole new depth of focus. She said she could hear the tick of the cooling car, bees, birds. Imagine the temptation to despair in the sound of carefree birds only yards from where you lay breathing in the weeds. And in this heightened state, she said she could feel the psychotic realizing the truth of the situation at the same time she did. And when he came over to her and turned her over, he was crying. And she claimed it took no effort of will to hold him as he wept, as he raped her. She just stared into his eyes lovingly the entire time.

She stayed where he left her all day in the gravel, weeping, and giving thanks to her religious principles. She wept out of gratitude, she says. Well, I don’t mind telling you, I had begun to cry at this story’s climax. Not loudly, but I did. She had learned more about love that day with the sex offender than in any other stage of her spiritual journey. And I realized in that moment that I had never loved anyone before. She had addressed the psychotic’s core weakness. The terror of a soul-exposing connection with another human being. Nor is any of this all that different than a man sizing up an attractive girl at a concert and pushing all the right buttons to induce her to come home with him. And lighting her cigarettes and engaging in an hour of post-coital chit-chat. Seemingly very intent and close. But what he really wants to do is give her a special disconnected telephone number and never contact her again. And that the reason for this cold and victimizing behaviour is that the very connection that he had worked so hard to make her feel terrifies him. Do you see how open I’m being with you here?

Well, I know I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already decided that you know. I can see you forming judgments with that chilly smile. You’re not the only one who can read people, you know. And you know what? It’s because of her influence that I am more sad for you than pissed off. Because the impact of this story was profound and I’m not even gonna begin to describe it to you. Can you imagine how any of this felt? To look at her sandals across the room on the floor and remember what I had thought of them only hours before. And I’d say her name and she’d say ‘What?’ and I’d say her name again. Well, I’m not embarrassed. I don’t care how this sounds to you now. I mean, can you see how I could not just let her go after this? I just, I grabbed onto her skirt and I begged her not to leave. And then I watched her gently close the door and walk off barefoot down the hall, and never seeing her again. But it didn’t matter that she was fluffy or not terribly bright! Nothing else mattered! She had all of my attention – I had fallen in love with her! I believed that she could save me.

Well, I’m aware of how all this sounds, I can see that look on your face. And I know you. And I know what you’re thinking. So ask it. Ask it now, this is your chance. ‘I believed she could save me,’ I said. Ask it now. Say something! I stand here naked before you. Judge me, you bitch.
You happy now? You all worn out? Well, be happy because I don’t care. I knew she could and I knew I loved. End of story.