Watch Movie: Swoon


In 1992, independent film maker Tom Kalin wrote and directed "Swoon". The movie depicts a more realistic relationship between two infamous killers: Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb. In May of 1924 the two wealthy students kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Robert Franks. The subsequent trial was a sensation at the time. Kalin's film received much praise when it was released.

Actors Craig Chester played Leopold and Daniel Schlachet played Loeb in the film.


Film critic Roger Ebert reviewed Swoon for his movie review column (November 13, 1992) and wrote:
"Swoon" reopens once again the notorious thrill-killing of Bobby Frank, whose murder in the 1920s became an international scandal when it was revealed that two rich young Chicago homosexuals, Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr., had committed the crime. Their motives were chilling: They wanted to do it simply to prove to themselves that they were smart enough to get away with it. 
The case has been made into two previous movies - Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope" (1948) and Richard Fleisher's "Compulsion" (1959), but both to one degree or another played down the topic of homosexuality. This new version by writer-director Tom Kalin plays it up, sometimes in ways that are fairly disturbing, as when he seems to linger on the ways the dominant Loeb was able to control the more submissive Leopold by using sex as a weapon. 
The movie, shot in black and white, has the look of modern men's fashion photography, and Kalin deliberately allows anachronistic props into the frame (a TV channel changer and a push-button phone, for example) to make the film's reality level more ambiguous.

The question then becomes: How should one interpret the film? Kalin does not use the argument that society is to blame, that because homosexuality was outlawed, Leopold and Loeb were somehow forced into the lapse of sanity which led to the murder.

This is the kind of movie that inspires discussion afterwards. It is being reviewed as an example of the new "queer cinema," deliberately gay films by openly gay filmmakers, but I am not sure "Swoon" would have needed to be much different if the killers had been heterosexual lovers. I don't think what they did resulted from the fact that they were gay; I believe similar acts throughout history, in tolerant times and repressive ones, have been committed by all kinds of people were born without what we call the conscience (as Loeb was) or without the courage to follow it (Leopold).

Related
The short documentary, Crimes of the Century: Leopold and Loeb

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