A film by Paul Cross
9/11 films have become a genre, whether non-fiction or
fictionalized accounts of the events and truth of that awful day. This latest, Severe Visibility, by actor, writer, director Paul Cross, is
a riveting, Kafkaesque film which takes places largely in the matrix of the
Pentagon, the belly of the beast on 9/11 and its aftermath. The small cast and
independent production reminds me somewhat of The Reflecting Pool, with
its relentless questioning of the official story.
In this case, the hero or anti-hero is U.S. Army Major
Stanley Kruter, who works in the ill-fated Pentagon accounting office, most of
which was obliterated along with Naval Intelligence that day, both keepers of
many lost secrets. Kruter is a Vietnam
veteran winding down his military career far from the bloody battlefields he
experienced as a young man, though they have left him troubled and suffering
with bouts of depression and anti-depressants.
Kruter, though mild-mannered, self-effacing, is a fiercely
patriotic man, somewhat at conflict with his inner peacenik for his military
career. To ease his psychic pain, he keeps a diary. His pen pal or conscience
to whom he writes and questions is no less than Thomas Jefferson, whose
determined visage graces a wall of Kruter�s small office.
It is in this room in hell on the morning of 9/11 that
Kruter notices his small TV�s reception is fluttering. As he brings the
antennae cord to the window�s metal frame, he sees a craft descending like a
lightening bolt towards the building. Just then, a friend bursts in the doorway
to ask him if he�s seen what�s happened in New York. Before he can answer, the craft
makes explosive contact with the building.
Full of self-doubt, even remorse, Kruter wonders if he saw
what he thinks he saw: not the 757 he�s told later hit the building, but a
smaller, slender, missile-like craft zooming down ground level at nearly 500
mph. Though he survives the explosion with only a nasty forehead bruise, he is
further damaged psychologically by the unthinkable truth of what he feels he
really saw. Could it possibly be? Could a soldier, a lifer, a patriot like him
even think such thoughts?
In fact, at a deposition in the Pentagon, when asked what he
saw by military brass and two FBI men, he has trouble, internal trouble,
spitting out 757. Under repeated questioning, he hesitantly clings to the
official story, afraid to even touch his original perception lest he be thought
a traitor. Of course, once he has testified that yes it was a 757, the die is
cast. Whatever inner peace he had is destroyed by his conscience.
To make matters worse, as he leaves the building he is
questioned by a foreign journalist who challenges him when he repeats it was a
757. This only pours fuel on Kruter�s internal rage. And we are off and running
through his world, suddenly gone dark, and haunted by his deepest fears, not to
mention the relentless reporter, military inquirers, the incoming information
from eyewitness reports on his car radio and home television that rebut the 757
Sufficeth to say, Kruter�s crisis of conscience is
full-blown. And even the title, Severe
Visibility, begins to sound awfully like, Severe Disability, a perhaps fatal case of PTSD. It is an irony and
reckoning for this veteran soldier who thought he had distanced himself in the
fortress of patriotism from the suffering and violence of the battlefield. Or
are they both sides of a coin fate flipped for him? And the call, at all costs,
Within this taut set-up, we have a graceful dramatic device
for exposition of all the facts and non-facts and what questions arose after
Pentagon 9/11. They are doled out by the relentless reporter, whom Kruter
contacts, and by Kruter himself who begins to look more closely at photos of
the front of the building, and to realize the absence of the massive wings,
tail, fuselage, engines and baggage.
Kruter also notices a file cabinet and computer screen in an
exposed office on the second floor above where the airliner was said to hit.
They survived the heat that purportedly evaporated the craft and bodies. As he
pursues the impulses of his doubt, he awakens the suspicions of others. A
military guard catches Kruter entering a cordoned off office directly below his
own. He explains to the guard he wanted to see if the view was any different than
his. It wasn�t, but the guard reports him.
The revelations that the Pentagon hit was what he really saw
begin to tighten like a hanging noose around his neck, suffocating him. He
visits his psychiatrist, begins to rely on pills and whiskey to dim his consciousness,
but it�s too late. He is approached by the two FBI men who had been at his
original deposition and is questioned again. He realizes that his worst
nightmare is beginning to come true.
I leave the rest and the best of it all for you to see --
you being anyone who likes a good story well told, or who are interested in
what really happened at the Pentagon on 9/11. Ultimately, what Kruter finds out
catapults him into this matrix of intrigue, madness, and suspense, setting him
on a collision course with his destiny, one from which he finds no return.
was an Official Selection of the New York International Independent Film and
Video Festival of 2007. My hat is off to Paul Cross as actor, director, and
writer of this brave, well-crafted film produced by DX3 Pictures.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York
City. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book, �State Of
Shock: Poems from 9/11 on� is available at
www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.