Why We Kill

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Blue Caprice (Alexandre Moors, 2013)

One thing that has crossed my mind in many films that I’ve seen is the discussion of some motive behind killing. As a human being myself, I agree with the theory that almost every decision we make is based upon at least some predetermined thought process; in other words, no action or reaction by a person can be truly spontaneous. Spontaneity is something that is left to the inanimate object, or to the forces and laws of gravity, but even in the scientific realm, true spontaneity is something that isn’t certain because a “split second” is hard to distinguish as a number other than “0”, in which case, how can something not take any amount of time? In the world of human thought, even every step we take is actually a predetermined event, as the brain sends signals to parts of your body telling it to move. We don’t notice the thoughtprocess because we’ve gotten so used to it by now… but when we were just learning to walk, we were in fact conscious of our own decisions to put one foot ahead of another and move that way.

So considering this, let’s go into something much deeper. What is the thought process behind killing other people? From a cinematic standpoint, this topic usually entails some form of hatred towards another individual, but also, is almost always stemmed from a world-view ideology. I wanted to concentrate mostly on a film which I just recently saw, and is included in my list of Best Films of 2013. The movie is Alexandre Moors Blue Caprice which is about the Beltway Sniper Murders, a horrific incident in 2002 when an older man and a teenager drove around in a blue Chevy Caprice shooting random targets along the Maryland/D.C. area. The reason the incident garnered so much attention and more importantly confusion amongst the American people is because there seemed to be absolutely no motive behind the killings. None of the targets were related in any way, and they happened in such succession and at such random locations that it was thought the killers themselves had no motive or reasoning behind their murderous acts; that it was “just for the hell of it”.

Of course, such a murder spree can never be left as a spontaneous and reckless decision by any human. As Moors tried to make of his theorized backstory within the film, there had to be some motive. This again, forms from the idea that human beings always think with reasoning and that every action is predetermined in some way. Movies/books/TV always love to create their own notions about a character’s intentions, especially a villain, because it gives room for a lot of creativity and can also strike a social chord with the audience. As Christopher Nolan proposed in The Dark Knight, the Joker’s actions stem from an anarchic world-view, a belief that chaos is equal to ultimate fairness and ultimate freedom because in an anarchy, there is no law and there is no governance, so man is free to act as he pleases with no protection from or against his neighbor; “the thing about chaos is, it’s fair“. In The Thin Red Line, death and killing is believed to be an act purely of nature; Nick Nolte’s character tells Staros “look that that tree, see how those vines are wrapping around it? Suffocating it, of all life and light? Nature is cruel Staros.” Even killing amongst human beings, especially in war, is an act of man’s ultimate nature… that of a wild, lawless animal filled with greed and cruelty, and that war is the ultimate testament to that truth; “It’s all about property” declares Welsh after a bullet and grenade skirmish with the Japanese enemy.

So, the Beltway Sniper Murders portrayed in Blue Caprice, came down to a personal world-view for not only John Muhammad, the prime perpetrator of the crime, but also for Moors who as a filmmaker, had to instill his own beliefs of death and murder into the equation (how could he not? Film is never truly objective). A seminal scene in the film shows Muhammad driving a shopping cart around the frozen section of a grocery store, followed eagerly by the young Caribbean teenager he picks up as his “apprentice”, and dictates to him that they’ll strike random targets, that they must remain unpredictable; “If they think we’re killing old people, kill a middle-aged man. If they think we’re killing men, kill a woman. If they think we’re killing women, kill a child.” He continues in saying that their killings will wake the system up, that people will rise from their slumber of just going on with the boring lives, and realize the rest of the world, realize death and how you can’t take a single moment for granted. Again, the thought-process behind the murders was a philosophical premeditation. It was set as an ideology that must be put into action (just like anarchy for The Joker, and man’s nature for the soldiers in The Thin Red Line).

When we speak about how to stop violence and death, or when we talk about the fallacy of making killers “famous”, or the idea of banning guns because that is the weapon of choice in murders, let me say that it is not the person or the weapon who should be exposed, but the idea behind the killings that must be put into the forefront of discussion. The motive is what shows us the ticking of the clock in the mind of a murderer. It exposes how psychology and emotion play such a key role in the proposition of killing. The reason cinema like Blue Caprice is so enamored with the thought-process or ideology of a villain is because it is the dark and hard-to-listen-to honesty of what human beings are capable of, and how we think. Most importantly, the motives teach us something about ourselves and how our species works through this socio-political climate we have constructed for ourselves.

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