Errol Morris is perhaps the nation’s most prominent documentary filmmaker, and his remarkable films have exposed some of the darkest sides of the nation, ranging from police corruption to the astonishingly arrogant hubris of Donald Rumsfeld, as well as some of the nation’s most fascinating characters. He was also the creator of a famous documentary on British physicists Stephen Hawking, and a searing report on British tabloid journalism.
In 2002, he produced a short documentary for the opening minutes of that year’s Academy Awards presentation, interviewing famous folk about their favorite films.
One of those who appeared before his famous Interrotron was none other than Donald John Trump, describing his love of that Orson Welles classic, Citizen Kane: and the famous image that dominated its ending:
And that brings us to our quote of the day, excerpted from the interview:
EM: Somehow he identifies clearly with Kane. Kane is Trump. And it’s not the kind of identification that I would make if I were Trump. Of course that issue—if I were Trump, what would I do, what would I think, what would I say?—it’s one of those counterfactuals I’m probably not equipped to address. But, if I were Donald Trump, I would not want to emphasize that connection with Kane. You know, a megalomaniac in love with power and crushing everything in his path. The inability to have friends, the inability to find love. The moral that Trump takes from Kane—I mean, it’s one of the great lines that I recorded. I ask, “Do you have any advice for Charles Foster Kane, sir?” You know, let’s get down to the psychiatric intervention. How can we help this poor man? He’s obviously troubled. How can we help him? Donald, help me out here!
And Donald says, “My advice to Charles Foster Kane is find another woman!” And you know, I thought, is that really the message that Welles was trying to convey? That Kane had made poor sexual choices, poor marriage choices?
EM: You know, in Borges’ review of Citizen Kane, he cites Chesterton in “The Head of Caesar,” and it’s one of my very favorite quotes of all time. “There’s nothing more frightening than a labyrinth without a center.” An amazing phrase, which can mean so many things. He of course applies it to Kane. But it’s a world where there is no truth or falsity. For me, it’s a world of randomness, a world of chaos. A world of appearances with no substance. A world really, truly devoid of hope. And I find the review very powerful, actually truly meaningful, given when Citizen Kane first came out and what happened to the world. We forget how charged of a time that was. 1941.
AA: Are we in that kind of moment now?
EM: Like anybody that has half a mind, I feel that the republic is threatened, but this is a deeply internal threat. It’s not a threat from our enemies, from ISIS or ISIL or Al-Qaeda. You know, it’s an internal threat to what we stand for. (If we stand for anything, and I’m not so sure that we do anymore.) I often think about what I call fig leaf democracy. That we want to at least pay lip service to fairness, equality, even if it doesn’t exist, we want to pay lip service to it. We want to acknowledge that it’s a value that should be sought after, even if it can’t be attained. Equal opportunity, fairness, a level playing field for all. Even if it’s an illusory dream, we somehow think it’s part of our social compact, part of what defines us, that makes us who we are. That could also be some horrible self-deception or delusion.
I think the country is on the verge of becoming a disgrace. A disgrace to itself.
Maybe I sound severe, but to elect Trump is saying it’s okay to be self-deceived. It’s okay to say anything you want to say. It’s okay to sort of ignore reality and just make things up as you go along. It’s okay to be irrational, it’s okay to be any pernicious thing you want to be—racist, intolerant, duplicitous. Why not elect Diego as president? Or Richard III?