Film: The Good Shepherd

July 25, 2010 |  by

directed by Robert de Niro, 2006

It’s so interesting to access a director’s vision for a film. I mean the actual vision, not necessarily what appears on the screen, but what the director “wanted to express.” The idea. The agenda, you could say – how well or not well it was presented, what got in the way, the director’s personality, etc..

Not everyone liked this movie, a fictional telling of the birth of U.S. intelligence and the CIA. It’s very subtle and silent with meaning (like de Niro himself), so we have to look deeper for the vision. But it’s a good practice – seeing behind the surface of things. We know we’ve found our “in” when General Sullivan, the character played by de Niro, says: “I’m concerned that too much power will end up in the hands of too few. It’s always in somebody’s best interests to promote enemies, real or imagined. I see this (the CIA) as America’s eyes and ears. I don’t want it to become its heart and soul.” OK. Obvious enough. But what’s more interesting is when..

General Sullivan says: “I’m afraid when all is said and done, we’re all just clerks..”

And an older British spy says: “We all are, in our own way, bootmakers to kings.”

These are powerful people speaking. High ranking intelligence officers, the keepers of secrets. If they are the clerks, the bootmakers…then who is the king? Never does The Good Shepherd signal that anyone – not even the President – is the true source of power. But everywhere is the feeling of a nameless, faceless power behind the scenes.

This is fascinating, meme-wise. The meme is the king.

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