A variety of research scenes in ‘Double Jeopardy’

As we wind down this October, I’m back with another film analysis post, this time of the suspense thriller Double Jeopardy (1999), starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones.

Here’s the IMDb.com plot synopsis for the film:

“A woman framed for her husband’s murder suspects he is still alive; as she has already been tried for the crime, she can’t be re-prosecuted if she finds and kills him.”

There are so many factual errors in that plot synopsis alone. I won’t go into them here; check out the IMDb.com Goofs page for the film.

Here’s a quick trailer:

Double Jeopardy (1999) Official Trailer – Ashley Judd Movie HD,” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

There are no actual reel librarians in this film, landing it in the Class V category. However, there are a few research scenes that I found interesting, so let’s dig in, shall we?

Research scene in the library:

After Libby (Ashley Judd) has served her time in prison for the crime of murdering Nick, her husband (Bruce Greenwood), she visits a public library to look up her former friend, the one who adopted Libby’s son, Matty. This library scene occurs 35 minutes into the film, and it was filmed at the main Vancouver Public Library in British Columbia. (I’ve been there!)

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Research scene filmed in the Vancouver Public Library

Since Libby’s been in prison the last 6 years, she’s not used to computers or concepts such as email. (Remember, this film was released in 1999.) She even says to a young man who stops to help her out on the computer that “Someone said I should try the internet.” I also really hope that “someone” was NOT a librarian!

This young man asks her a few questions — essentially doing a “reference interview” although it is clear that he is NOT a reel librarian. How do I know that?

  • He never identifies himself as a librarian
  • He is casually dressed, with a backpack or messenger bag (most likely marking him as a student)
  • He only agrees to help her after she reveals that she’s not looking for a guy friend (gross)
  • His role in the credits is listed as “Handsome Internet Expert,” hah!

After learning that her friend was a school teacher, he recommends that they start at the Washington State Department of Education directory site. Bingo!

Note:¬† There is no “Washington State Department of Education,” so this is a factual error. The Washington state educational agency is called the “Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction,” otherwise known as OSPI.

While helping her, the young man continually attempts to flirt with her. This is Libby’s priceless reaction:

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Epic eye roll

After getting what she needs, Libby expertly sends the guy on his way by revealing that she had been convicted of murdering her husband. Buh-bye!

This library scene, with nary a reel librarian, lasts a total of 2 minutes. It is effective in helping Libby locate her friend, which gives her the next clue in tracking down her husband.

The best thing about this scene? The old-school web site designs, full of tables and frames. Ahhhhhhh, good times. ūüėČ

Website screenshots from 'Double Jeopardy' library research scene

Remember when websites used to look like this?!

You can view the entire library research scene below.

Double Jeopardy (4/9) Movie CLIP – Library Pick-Up (1999) HD,” uploaded by Movieclips, Standard YouTube license

Research scene in the newspaper archives:

Fifty-eight minutes into the film, we next see Libby researching the death of her friend — she suspects at the hand of her husband! — by using microfilm in a local newspaper’s archives. It’s funny, Libby seems much more comfortable using microfilm than she did using a computer. That subtle body language is a nice touch. You can tell it’s a newspaper archives room because in the foreground, you can see newspapers being printed.

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

A microfilm machine? Finally, something I know how to use!

This scene lasts less than 30 seconds, but it provides a clue that leads Libby to the next step. In the photo used in the newspaper story about her friend’s death, Libby recognized a painting in the background.

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Clue in the newspaper clipping

Research scene in an art gallery:

And this next clue leads Abby to a particular painter, Wassily Kandinsky, her husband used to collect. So she heads to a local art gallery and asks the gallery owner to try and track down any purchasers of recent paintings by that artist. The gallery owner looks up the Art Net website for this info, while Libby looks on over his shoulder. (Nice reversal of the first research scene, where a guy looked over her shoulder at the computer!)

Screenshot from 'Double Jeopardy' (1999)

Research in the art gallery

Fun fact:¬† The Art Net site still exists! It is a major art site used to “find artworks for sale, online auctions, top galleries, leading artists, and breaking art market news from around the globe.”

Below is a “then and now” collage from how the site (supposedly) looked in 1999, and how it looks now.

"Then and now" comparison of Art Net website

“Then and now” comparison of Art Net website

This art research scene lasts only a couple of minutes.

Adding up the value of research:

In total, all three scenes add up to less than 5 minutes total of screen time in Double Jeopardy, but they managed to pack in:

  • three different types of research;
  • different kinds of research tools, including websites and microfilm; as well as
  • different research locations, including a public library, newspaper archives, and an art gallery.

And each time, the research leads to vital clues that lead Libby to locating her husband and child.

All in all, Libby comes across as quite resourceful. My final thought is how much more quickly she might have tracked her husband down if she had utilized the resources of a reel librarian… ūüėČ

Sources used:

  • Double Jeopardy. Dir. Bruce Beresford. Perf. Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish. Paramount, 1999.
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Get out your white gloves and lemon juice! Reel archivist in ‘National Treasure’

I have been exploring quite a few reel archivist portrayals lately, inspired by articles I have recently read, as detailed in my “Reel librarians vs. reel archivists” post. In all the articles I read about reel archivists, Diane Kruger’s role as Dr. Abigail Chase in National Treasure¬†(2004) was highlighted, so I thought it would be perfect timing to revisit that film, “arguably one of the best known movies with an archival plot line” (Region of PEEL Archives).

So get out your white gloves and lemon juice — this analysis post is a long one!

*SPOILERS AHEAD THROUGHOUT*

Here’s a trailer for National Treasure:

National Treasure Official Trailer (2004),” uploaded by¬†Jake Smith, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Below is a quick recap of the film from the ‚ÄúCrossing a Librarian with a Historian: The Image of Reel Archivists” article by Aldred, Burr, and Park:

“Benjamin Franklin Gates is a treasure hunter searching for the Founding Fathers‚Äô hidden treasure. Clues lead him to the conclusion that he must steal the Declaration of Independence , where Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger), National Archives and Records Administration employee, gets caught up in the affair, and helps Gates discover the treasure.” (p. 88)

Diane Kruger gets 2nd billing in the cast, and is the top female lead. According to the film’s IMDb.com trivia page, her character’s name, Abigail Chase “is a combination of Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, and Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and later an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.”

Here’s how Aldred, Burr, and Park describe the character of Dr. Chase and how she fits into the history of reel archivists who are also main characters:

“Those reel archivists who were main characters were portrayed in an overall positive light, rather than as a stereotype. They were the heroes of the film, solving mysteries, fighting vampires, and trying to help those in need. They were educated individuals with distinct personalities. Abigail Chase of National Treasure (2004) was a curious, intelligent archivist at the National¬†Archives and Records Administration. She was the only reel archivist examined whose level of education was explicit (doctorate), who was the protagonist‚Äôs love interest, and was the only female main character in the film. Unfortunately, even though she was positively portrayed, she was never formally identified as an archivist at any time during the film. To the audience, she is nothing more than a knowledgeable treasure hunter.” (p. 84-85)

First archives spotting:

At 23 mins into the film, Gates is trying to alert authorities that Ian Howe (Sean Bean) will try to steal the Declaration of Independence. After getting laughed out of the FBI, Gates and his sidekick assistant, Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), set out for the National Archives.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

National Archives building in Washington D.C.

Why the National Archives?

Right before this scene, Gates and Riley discuss who they should contact to help prevent the theft of the document.

Gates:¬† We don’t need anyone crazy. We just need someone short of crazy.

Riley:  Obsessed?

Gates:  Passionate.

As Buckley states in the “The Truth is in the Red Files” essay: “The next scene shows the two characters waiting for a meeting with the archivist, indicating that the archivist had the requisite ‘passion’ they were seeking” and “Equally telling is the portrayal of the archivist, and the emphasis placed on her passionate dedication to her profession” (p. 121).

But before showcasing her passion, Dr. Chase demonstrates a healthy dose of skepticism.

As Gates and Riley wait, Dr. Chase’s assistant announces that “Dr. Chase can see you now.” This reveals her qualifications immediately but does not reveal her gender. The two men are (annoyingly) surprised that “Dr. Chase” is a woman.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Just a sec, I’m busy

I also love that Chase has a “Rosie the Riveter” poster in her office, which you can spy in the upper right corner in the screenshot below.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Dr. Abigail Chase and Rosie the Riveter — we can do it!

They exchange a bit of small talk. It’s also important to note that Gates has stated his surname is “Brown,” because his family has a less-than-stellar reputation.

Chase:  Nice to meet you.

Gates:  Your accent. Pennsylvania Dutch?

Chase:  Saxony German.

Riley:¬† You’re not American?

Chase:¬† Oh, I am an American. I just wasn’t born here.¬†

[Note:¬† I really liked this brief exchange. It not only neatly dispatched the issue of Diane Kruger’s real-life German accent, but also reinforced the idea that there are Americans born abroad who are just as American and as patriotic as those born in the U.S. Full disclosure, I also happen to be an American born abroad!]

In this exchange below, you can also get the sense of how Gates thinks he is being clever in trying to “talk around” Chase, but she’s not having any of it. Her questions are insightful, knowledgeable, and to the point.

Chase:  Now, you told my assistant that this was an urgent matter.

Gates:¬† Yes, ma’am. Well, I’m gonna get straight to the point. Someone’s gonna steal the Declaration of Independence.

Riley: It’s true.

Chase:¬† I think I’d better put you gentlemen in touch with the FBI.

Gates:¬† We’ve been to the FBI.

Chase:  And?

Riley:  They assured us that the Declaration cannot possibly be stolen.

Chase:¬† They’re right.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Don’t try to play me, dudes. I know what’s up.

Gates:  My friend and I are less certain. However, if we were given the privilege of examining the document, we would be able to tell you for certain if it were actually in any danger.

Chase:¬† [shooting him a knowing look, sits back in her chair] What do you think you’re gonna find?

Gates:¬† [getting uncomfortable] We believe that there’s an… encryption on the back.

Chase:  An encryption, like a code?

Gates:¬† Yes, ma’am.

Chase:  Of what?

Gates:¬† Uh… a cartograph.

Chase:  A map.

Gates:¬† Yes, ma’am.

Chase:  A map of what?

Gates: The location of… [nervously clears throat, as per the subtitles] hidden items of historic and intrinsic value.

Chase:  [shakes head as though to clear it] A treasure map?

Riley:¬† That’s where we lost the FBI.

Chase:¬† You’re treasure hunters, aren’t you?

Gates:¬† We’re more like treasure protectors.

Chase:¬† Mr. Brown, I have personally seen the back of the Declaration of Independence, and I promise you, the only thing there is a notation that reads, “Original Declaration of Independence, dated… “

Gates:¬† … “Fourth of July, 1776.” Yes, ma’am.

Chase:  But no map.

Gates:¬† It’s invisible.

Chase:  Oh, right.

Riley:¬† And that’s where we lost the Department of Homeland Security.

Chase:¬† What led you to assume there’s this invisible map?

Gates:  We found an engraving on the stem of a 200-year-old pipe.

Riley:  Owned by Freemasons.

Chase:  May I see the pipe?

Riley:¬† We don’t have it.

Chase:  Did Bigfoot take it? [This line was used in the trailer!]

Gates:  It was nice meeting you.

Lasting 3 minutes in total, what is the ultimate point of this introductory scene? It establishes Dr. Chase as smart, credentialed, skeptical, and protective of historical artifacts — plus, she can more than hold her own against men who think they know more than she does. It also establishes a lot of backstory and exposition in a brief amount of time.

This scene is also vital because after this exchange with Dr. Chase, Gates decides he has to steal the document himself, in order to protect it. Riley then tries to convince Gates that stealing the Declaration of Independence cannot be done.

Library of Congress research scene

Cue the obligatory research scene in a library!

At 28 minutes into the film, the camera pans down the iconic Library of Congress Reading Room, to where Riley and Gates are seated at a desk, surrounded by books. And it’s these readily available books that allow them to figure out a way into the National Archives to steal the Declaration of Independence.

Don’t try this at home, y’all. Or in your local public library. ūüėČ

Screenshot collage from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Research in the Library of Congress

Riley:¬† I’ve brought you to the Library of Congress. Why? Because it’s the biggest library in the world. Over 20 million books. And they’re all saying the same exact thing: Listen to Riley. What you have here, my friend, is an entire layout of the Archives, short of builder’s blueprints. You’ve got construction orders, phone lines, water and sewage — it’s all here. Now, when the Declaration is on display, ok, it is surrounded by guards and video monitors and a little family from Iowa and little kids on their eighth-grade field trip. And beneath an inch of bulletproof glass is an army of sensors and heat monitors that will go off if someone gets too close with a high fever. Now, when it’s not on display, it is lowered into a four-foot-thick concrete, steel-plated vault that happens to be equipped with an electronic combination lock and biometric access-denial systems.

Gates:¬† You know, Thomas Edison tried and failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb…. He only had to find 1 way to make it work.

Gates then puts a book on the table.

[Note:¬† As according to IMDb.com trivia page, “The book that Ben shows Riley in the Library of Congress, that has the information about the Preservation Room, is called ‘The Earth System.’ It is some sort of a textbook, and it is authored by¬†Lee Kump,¬†James F. Kasting, and Robert G. Crane. The ISBN is 0131420593.”]

Gates: The Preservation Room. Enjoy. Go ahead. Do you know what the Preservation Room is for?

Riley:  Delicious jams and jellies?

Gates:¬† No. That’s where they clean, repair and maintain all the documents and the storage housings when they’re not on display or in the vault. Now, when the case needs work they take it out of the vault, directly across the hall, and into the Preservation Room. The best time for us, or Ian, to steal it would be during the gala this weekend, when the guards are distracted by the VIPs upstairs. But we’ll make our way to the Preservation Rom, where there’s much less security.

Riley:¬† Huh…. this might be possible.

They then prepare for the heist… uh, rescue.

Chase in charge:

Riley hacks into a computer system to heat up the glass surrounding the Declaration of Independence, in order to force the document into the Preservation Room. Dr. Chase is immediately alerted to this and sets off, with a male colleague, into the basement to enter the room.¬†It’s clear that Dr. Chase is the one in charge, and we hear her narration as she orders a full diagnostics.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Chase in charge

Of course, Dr. Chase does not realize that she is unwittingly helping Gates and Riley steal the very artifact she is pledged to protect!

A gala, a chase, and Chase:

A gala scene at the National Archives begins at 37 minutes into the film, and we get to see Dr. Chase all dressed up in a classic cocktail dress and kitten heels. Gates hands her champagne for a toast, “Here’s to the men who did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right. What they knew was right.” Chase’s eyes narrow as she listens. She knows he’s up to something!

Gates then uses Chase’s fingerprints on the glass of champagne to get into the Preservation Room! Gates does successfully steal the document but also encounters the rival team of (evil) treasure hunters, led by¬†Ian Howe (Sean Bean). As Gates tries to escape through the National Archives — buying a dummy copy of the document in the lobby’s gift shop! — Abby spies Gates and, full of suspicion, follows him.

Riley:¬† Ben, the mean Declaration lady’s behind you.

Totally unafraid — and undeterred by being called the “mean Declaration lady” — Chase then calls out for security, grabs the rolled-up document, and attempts to run back to the National Archives in heels. Unfortunately, that’s when the baddies grab her AND the document. The lead baddie, Howe, tries to scare her into giving up the document, but she doesn’t give in. Gates and Riley then follow her in a van and rescue her, but Kruger did most of her own stunts in this scene, as evidenced by this brief interview:

National Treasure – Diane Kruger Interview,” uploaded by¬†Novidades Cinema – Movie News, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License

Turning Chase into a fellow treasure hunter protector:

As they speed away from the baddies, Chase is still not having any of it:

Chase:¬† I’m not all right. Those men have the Declaration of Independence!

Gates shows her the real document, meaning that the baddies got the dummy poster copy.

Chase:  [attempting to grab the document] Give me that! Who were those men?

Gates:  Just the guys we warned you would steal the Declaration of Independence.

Riley:¬† And you didn’t believe us.

Gates:  We did the only thing we could do to keep it safe.

The truth then comes out about Gates’s true identity.

Chase:  I want that document, Mr. Brown!

Gates:  My name is Gates.

Chase:¬† Did you just say Gates? Gates? You’re that family with the conspiracy theory about the Founding Fathers? You know what? I take it back. You’re not liars. You’re insane.

The two men then reveal their plan to run chemical tests on the Declaration of Independence to uncover the “invisible map” they had alluded to in their earlier conversation with Chase.

Chase:¬† You can’t seriously intend to run chemical tests on the Declaration of Independence in the back of a moving van.

Riley:  We have a clean-room environment all set up. EDS suits, a particulate air filtration system, the whole shebang.

Chase:  Really?

It is nice to hear that Chase had set up a “clean-room environment” to preserve the archival integrity of the document. And that Dr. Chase is impressed by this.

Gates:¬† We can’t go back there. … We need those letters.

Chase:  What letters?You have the original Silence Dogood letters? Did you steal those, too?

Gates:  We have scans of the originals. Quiet, please.

Chase:¬† How’d you get scans?

Gates:  Oh, I know the person who has the originals. Now shush.

Chase:  Why do you need them?

Gates:¬† She really can’t shut her mouth, can she? Tell you what, look. I will let you hold on to this [hands her the Declaration of Independence in the case] if you promise to shut up, please. Thank you.

While he’s thinking and talking with Riley, Chase is plotting yet another escape. She’s scrappy, isn’t she?! She tries to run, but she doesn’t get very far. And this next bit is the final turn in the screw, when Chase becomes complicit in the treasure hunter adventure.

Chase:¬† I’m not going. Not without the Declaration.

Gates:¬† You’re not going with the Declaration.

Chase:¬† Yes, I am. I’m not letting it out of my sight, so I’m going.

As the Region of Peel Archives put it:

“Gates and his assistant Riley Poole manage to steal the document from the National Archives, and while doing so they unwittingly involve Abigail Chase, one of the nation‚Äôs archivists. The three of them then attempt to locate the treasure before a ruthless gang of criminals can. It is interesting that while dragged in against her will initially, Chase comes to embrace the adventure, although she, like any good archivist, remains fiercely protective of the Declaration document.”

I was also super impressed by Diane Kruger’s facial expressions throughout these scenes. Her suspicious glare is excellent, and it deepens as she gets drawn into the plot, as evidenced in the screenshots below. The top screenshot is from her introductory scene, the middle is from the gala, and the bottom is when she holds onto the Declaration of Independence case in the van.

Screenshot collage from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Suspicious minds…

Destroying the Declaration of Independence:

The trio then travel to visit Gates’s father, played by Jon Voight, in order to uncover the code on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Instead of a “clean-room environment,” they have a dining table, a hairdryer, and a bowl of lemons. At least they’re wearing white gloves?! No wonder Dr. Chase is looking so guilty.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Looking guilty

Gates then takes a lemon and is about to squeeze it onto the back of the Declaration of Independence. Not so fast!

Chase:¬†¬†You can’t do that.

Gates:  But it has to be done.

Chase:  Then someone who is trained to handle antique document is gonna do it.

Gates:  Ok.

Chase:¬† Ok. Now, uh, if there’s a secret message, it’ll probably be marked by a symbol in the upper right-hand corner. [rubs a Q-tip on the lemon] I’m so getting fired for this.

Gate:  We need more juice.

Chase:  We need more heat. [she grabs a hairdryer!]

Chase then handles the hairdryer. With gloves on. As any self-respecting archivist would do. ūüėČ

Screenshots from 'National Treasure' (2004)

The white gloves make it all okay

Chase, Riley, and Gates are definitely in it together now!

Buckley comments on the juxtaposition of a reel archivist protecting and destroying the archival documents at the same time:

“Although the objections of the archivist [in National Treasure] to the use (abuse?) of archival documents are overruled in favour of the entertainment value of high-speed chases and nail-biting cliffhangers, those objections are strongly voiced, and they are heard. While the audience may enjoy the entertaining machinations involved in retrieving the Declaration of Independence from the National Archives, the authority of this document or of its custodians is never in question. The continued importance placed on archival value is evident in the scenes involving the Declaration, as well as in the preservation and display of the Silence Dogood letters in the Benjamin Franklin Archive.” (p. 121)

They make their way to the next clue in the Silence Dogood letters in the Benjamin Franklin Archive as then on to the Liberty Bell and the¬†Independence Hall in Philadelphia. At Independence Hall, at 1 hour and 17 minutes into the film, they unfurl the Declaration of Independence in order to read the next clue, and Gates tries to school Chase on archival etiquette. And bless Dr. Chase’s sassy heart.

Chase:  Here, help me.

Gates:  Careful.

Chase:  You think?

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

The Declaration of Independence returns to Independence Hall!

Calling the shots:

The baddies then show up, and Riley and Chase run off together with the document case, in order to create a diversion from Gates. Lots of ACTION and PLOT and CLUES ensue, but it finally comes down to Chase figuring out how to make a trade with the baddies.

Or as the bald baddy says to Gates, “Ask your girlfriend¬†[referring to Chase]. She’s the one calling all the shots now. She won’t shut up.” Hah! ūüėÄ

The final action scene takes place in an underground passageway and vault, where they find the hidden treasure. But what is the most valuable hidden treasure for the reel archivist?

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

The pen is mightier than the sword… a reel archivist admiring scrolls from the lost Library of Alexandria

I loved that Chase was not wooed or awed by the gold and the jewels but rather by the scrolls from Alexandria!

As the Region of Peel Archives states:

The team is ultimately successful, locating the treasure deep underground in Manhattan. Ever the faithful archivist, Chase is not drawn to the gold jewelry, statues, or other artifacts found in the huge underground cavern, but rather to what she identifies as scrolls from the lost Library of Alexandria.

Abigail Chase also made an impression on Ben Gates, as the first things Gates asks the FBI is that “Dr. Chase gets off clean, without a mark on her record.” I really appreciated that Gates (a) put her professional needs first, and (b) referred to Chase by her title and credentials.

Getting the last line:

In the final scene, Chase and Gates and Riley are all talking together in a garden setting. It’s clear Chase and Gates are together, as they are holding hands. Ever the professional, Chase has a book in her hand.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Final scene from ‘National Treasure’ (2004)

Riley then takes off in his new sports car, and Chase has one last surprise for Gates:

Chase:  I made something for you.

Gates:  You did?

Chase:  A map.

Gates:  Where does it lead to?

Chase:¬† You’ll figure it out.

I love that the reel archivist gets the last line in the movie!

Alternate ending in the National Archives:

But Gates did not get the last line in the movie in the original ending, which was changed after the original didn’t test well with audiences.

The original ending was set back in the National Archives, with the Declaration of Independence back in its case. Gates is looking over the Constitution, also in a glass case. Chase has her arm through Gates’s arm, so it’s still clear that they are together.

Screenshot from 'National Treasure' (2004)

Alternate original ending from ‘National Treasure’ (2004)

Chase:  What are you thinking about?

Gates:  Nothing.

Chase:¬† There’s nothing on the back of the Constitution.

Gates:¬† I wasn’t thinking that. Are you sure?

Chase:  I already checked it out. [They laugh together]

This original exchange is funny — and reinforces Chase’s ambition and initiative! — but Riley gets the last line:¬† “Guys, do you think we could keep some of the treasure this time?

I like that they changed the ending so that the reel archivists gets the last laugh!

The importance of the reel archivist role:

Ultimately, I agree with Buckley, who sums up Dr. Abigail Chase’s role and this popcorn action film this way:

“Buried beneath the stereotypical¬†images are elements of the truth:¬† that records matter, that protection of the record matters, and that the protectors of the records are dedicated to their profession.” (p. 120-121)

Although the film is full of plot holes and historical errors — see here for a video run-down of all the historical inaccuracies in 13 minutes or less — I enjoyed rewatching and analyzing Dr. Chase’s character, and how refreshingly original and non-stereotypical her character turns out to be. I think a lot of this comes down to how Diane Kruger played the character, with an innate sense of feistiness, as a woman who is used to dealing with men who underestimate her. She does NOT underestimate herself, and I agree that Dr. Abigail Chase is ultimately a positive portrayal of a reel archivist. I would also argue, although she is not technically a reel librarian (I do, however, choose to include both reel archivists and reel librarians in my research), that she does fit into the category of Atypical Portrayals, and her importance to the film lands it in the Class I category.

Continuing the conversation:

Have you seen the National Treasure film, or it sequel? What do you think of the Dr. Abigail Chase character and her role as a reel archivist? Do you find her portrayal stereotypical, or not? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

Indiana Jones and the reel librarian

One of my librarian colleagues recently asked me if I had done an analysis post for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), one of her personal favorites. I have included the film in prior posts on this blog — see here in my post about Comic Relief librarians¬†and¬†here in this post in which I likened the reel librarian in the film to Stan Lee’s reel librarian cameo in The Amazing Spider-Man— but I realized I hadn’t done an in-depth analysis yet. So, Heather, this one’s for you! ūüôā

I have watched¬†Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade many times over the years, and goodness, how this film holds up! It’s just a really solid — and really¬†re-watchable — action adventure movie with romance and comedy perfectly mixed in. It’s the¬†third film in the series, and in this installment, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) sets off to find the Holy Grail… and his missing father (Sean Connery), who is also a professor and historian. Such good casting!

Here’s a quick trailer for the film:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Trailer #1,” uploaded by Movieclips Classic Trailers, Standard YouTube license

Facts, libraries, and research:

Before we get to the library scene, we first have to visit a pivotal scene that occurs 14 minutes into the film. After the introductory scenes of “Young Indy” and a glimpse of Indiana Jones in full adventurer mode at sea, we swing back to spy on Indiana Jones in the classroom. Instead of wearing a fedora and leather jacket, Indiana is in full professor mode in a three-piece tweedy suit, bow tie, and round glasses. (Put a pin in that, as we will revisit that costume.)

Screenshot from the classroom scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

FACT, Indiana Jones is still very handsome in a three-piece suit and polka-dotted bow tie. FACT.

He writes “FACT” on the chalkboard, underlines the word, and then states what is arguably the most important speech in the entire film:

“Archeology is the search for FACT, not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you’ve got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure, and “X” never, ever marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.”

Screenshot from the classroom scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

Hurray for libraries!

Why is this speech so important?

Not just because of the focus on the library, researching, and reading — that’s all gravy! — but because this character is setting up the rest of the film’s plot for us. Even though he’s in denial, we viewers know we’re set for lost cities, exotic travel, maps to buried treasure… and libraries!

The library scene:

Flash forward 10 minutes, almost to the half-hour mark of the film, to when Indiana Jones goes to Venice to meet Dr. Elsa Schneider (Allison Doody). She takes him to where his father was last seen, a local library.

Elsa Schneider:¬† I have something to show you. I left your father working in the library. He sent me to the map section to fetch an ancient plan of the city. When I got back to his table, he’d gone, with all his papers, except for that scrap, which I found near his chair. Here is the library.

Indiana Jones:¬† That doesn’t look much like a library.

Marcus Brody:  Looks like a converted church.

Elsa Schneider:¬† In this case, it’s the literal truth.

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

A reel library in a converted church

Trivia alert: The exterior is St. Barnaba church in Venice, but it’s actually still a regular church, not a library. (Bummer, right?!) The interiors were filmed elsewhere.

Below, watch a video of the entire library scene, which lasts about four minutes in total:

X Marks the Spot Indiana Jones,” uploaded by elder rod, Standard YouTube license

I love the “X marks the spot” reveal in this scene — harkening back to that pivotal speech in the classroom.

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

X marks the spot!

The reel librarian:

And of course the BEST PART of this scene is the reel librarian stamping his books, which exactly syncs up when Indiana Jones hits the floor tiles with the end of a metal post. (Suspension of disbelief? Yep.) It only takes three hits to crack the tile, and the closeups of the reel librarian’s face after each stamp are priceless. He never says a word, yet says SO MUCH through his facial expressions:

Let’s see the reel librarian again in action:

Bad Stamp,” uploaded by Average Joe, Standard YouTube license

My favorite moment of this scene is when the reel librarian — an older man, dressed in a suit, formal collar, and bow tie — stares at the stamp in his hands, then puts the stamp atop the last book softly, in a daze, like he can’t fathom the power he just unleashed. Thus is the power of the library stamp! ūüėČ

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

The power of the library stamp

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

With great power comes great responsibility

Reel librarian as comic relief:

This reel librarian is onscreen for a maximum of 30 seconds in a 4-minute scene (thus landing the film in the Class IV category), and the actor goes unidentified in the film’s credits. Yet he makes such an impact! Literally. ūüėČ

This reel librarian is a prime example of the¬†Comic Relief character type. The purpose of this character type¬†is the most obvious of all reel librarian roles, to entertain, but the reel librarians of this type do not necessarily entertain themselves or other characters in the film ‚ÄĒ rather, they entertain the¬†audience. Exclusively minor characters, the¬†Comic Relief librarians¬†serve as the target of jokes, and the audience is encouraged to laugh at them.

They are also the most extreme physically — note how the reel librarian in this film is rail-thin, which is emphasized by the slightly oversize nature of his suit. And these physical characteristics are part of the humor; marveling at this heretofore unseen and unknown strength (!), this reel librarian could not fathom that something other than his stamp could be making noise in the library.

Now for a few additional things I noted while rewatching this film…

Library organization:

First up, I enjoyed the peek at the signs at the end of each bookcase, which give hints about the organization and classification system for this part of the library collection. They’re obviously in the Arts & Literature section of the library, including literature, dramatic arts, and music.

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

I love getting peeks of reel library organization!

Reel library goof:

I watched this film on Amazon Prime, which also provides trivia and goofs. I had never noticed this goof before, that when Indiana Jones gets to the top of the spiral staircase, you can tell the backdrop is made up of book spines glued on a black background, rather than real books. Wow!

Trivia about the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

Reel library goof!

You can click the screenshot below to view a larger image of it in a new tab. Tip: Look for the shadows on the shelf behind Indiana’s elbow, which reveal that the books are really just book spines.

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

I love this facial and body expression, like Indiana Jones is apologizing for the book spines glued onto the backdrop.

A tale of two personal libraries:

The two Dr. Joneses like to think they’re so different — yet they’re so alike! And this goes to the state of their personal spaces, as well.

For example, here’s a screenshot of Dr. Jones, Sr., in his personal library at home, in the film’s introductory scenes. The room is lined with bookcases, but none of the items in the bookshelves — books, artifacts, scrolls — look to be very well organized or neatly arranged. Quite disheveled! And the father is dismissive of his own son.

Screenshot from an early scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

A messy private library for the father…

But the younger Dr. Jones is equally dismissive of his own students — he escapes by his office window! — plus his own office, full of bookcases and artifacts, is equally messy.

Screenshot from an early scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

… a messy private office for the son

Attention to detail:

I also appreciate the attention to detail in this film. In that same scene I mentioned above, when Young Indy tries to enlist his father’s help, we see a closeup of his father’s hands sketching a stained glass window in a small book.

We see that drawing again in the library scene, when Indiana Jones takes out his dad’s diary and flips to the page with the stained glass drawing.

Screenshot from 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

Drafting the library stained glass window…

Screenshot from the library scene in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)

… and a peek at the finished drawing of the stained glass window and accompanying notes. Love that attention to detail!

A tale of two suits:

And here’s one final thing I noted this time around while rewatching this film. Remember when I said put a pin in the costume Indiana Jones wore while teaching? Let’s revisit that. And I used the word “costume” very deliberately, as Indiana Jones only looks truly comfortable when he’s in his leather jacket and fedora. His entire being — posture, manner, etc. — gets stiff when he’s wearing the three-piece suit and bow tie.

And notice just how similar that costume is to what the reel librarian is wearing:

Collage of Indiana Jones and the reel librarian

Tales of two suits, the adventurer and the reel librarian

Both of them are wearing a three-piece suit, a bow tie, and round eyeglasses. There are differences, of course:¬† Indiana Jones’s suit is lighter in color, and a different texture, while the librarian’s suit looks shabbier, and his collar is more old-fashioned. Both bow ties have polka dot patterns, however, and it’s the same outfit formula. It’s like they’re wearing a uniform to do research!

Ultimately, this subtle bit of costume design sartorially links the theme of the library throughout this first part of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Continue the conversation:

Do you remember the library scene from this film? If so, what were your thoughts in revisiting this memorable scene? Did it make you laugh? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

Me before you (and the library, too)

I recently watched the tearjerker romance Me Before You (2016) on Amazon Prime, and I was — once again — surprised to see a library scene pop up in the middle of the film. The film stars Emilia Clarke as Lou Clark, a ditzy but warm-hearted girl who loves bright colors, striped tights, and fashion with a bedazzled “F.” Sam Claflin plays¬†Will Traynor, a recently paralyzed man that Lou helps take care of.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Here’s a trailer for Me Before You, directed by¬†Thea Sharrock¬†in her¬†directorial debut:

Me Before You Official Trailer #1 (2016) – Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin Movie HD,” uploaded by Movieclips Trailers, Standard YouTube license

The film is based on the novel by¬†Jojo Moyes, who also wrote the screenplay. I have to note that it has become a controversial film, with criticism and protests from the disability rights movement protesting the film’s central issue of disabilities¬†and voluntary euthanasia. (I did warn you about spoilers.) But it’s not really a spoiler when the fact that Will wants to kill himself comes up halfway through the film and provides the motivation for the remaining half of the film — and the library scene. And that it’s a plot point featured in the trailer.

So. Will is depressed and convinced he is a burden to his family and cannot reconcile the ideal of his former self with his current self. (Can you understand why this film has garnered criticism?) In an attempt to stimulate Will and get him out of his depression, Lou tries to plan fun activities for him. This idea comes out of a conversation with her sister, Treena (played by Jenna Coleman).

Treena:¬† If this is what he really wants, then use the time he’s got left. Make it special. … A bucket list. Show him how good this time can be.

Lou:  But.. what if that list could do more than that? What if it could make him change his mind?

Cue library research montage!

The director then cuts immediately to a public library. This scene occurs 47 minutes into the film.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

Lou and the library

And I am assuming this scene was filmed in an actual library, because — you may have guessed it, so say it with me now — there are CALL NUMBERS on the spine of the books. Thank goodness! (I wrote a blog post a few years ago about how you can spot the difference between a bookstores and a library onscreen, if you need a refresher.)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

Call numbers!

Note: I’m not sure where this scene was filmed, as¬†its filming locations on IMDb.com don’t list a public library. If anyone reading this blog knows the real-life library used in this scene, please leave a comment and share!

Research is hard, y’all

I laughed so hard at the next bit of the scene. The director starts out with a shot of Lou searching online from the perspective of the audience looking over her shoulder (so that we see the back of her head and the computer screen, a website about activities and support for quadriplegics)…

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

… then overlays a shot of Lou’s face getting more confused as she reads the computer screen…

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

… and THEN finishes off with Lou’s doubly confused face(s), one looking down at a stack of books she has loaded into her arms and the other still staring at the computer screen.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

Priceless.

Also… maybe ask a librarian for help next time. That’s why we’re here!

The reel librarian

The first time I watched this scene, I thought it would turn out to be a Class V film, a movie that may have a library scene but does not feature any reel librarians. But the second time I watched this scene, I am convinced that I spy a reel librarian — or at least the back of one leaning down to either retrieve or shelve a book. I’ve indicated the character I’m referring to in the screenshots below. The bun, cardigan, and dowdy skirt sealed the deal for me. Even though no background character from this scene is listed in the credits, I’m putting Me Before You in the Class IV category, with cameos and bit parts for reel librarians.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

The back of a reel librarian

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

The backside of a reel librarian

A real-life story

The entire library scene only lasts thirty seconds. Near the beginning of this research montage, Lou pulls out a book from the bookcase, and the title clearly reads Walking Papers.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Me Before You' (2016)

‘Walking Papers’ book spotlighted in this library scene from ‘Me Before You’ (2016)

And it’s a real book! (Y’all knew I would look that up, right?!) Its full title is¬†Walking Papers: The Accident that Changed My Life, and the Business that Got Me Back on My Feet by¬†Francesco Clark, published in 2010. Here’s the write-up of this book on Amazon:

Walking Papers¬†is the incredibly inspiring story of a young man who wouldn’t give up. Francesco Clark was a twenty-four-year-old with a bright future when he went to Long Island for the weekend–but a nocturnal dive into the pool’s shallow end changed everything, forever. Paralyzed from the neck down, Francesco was told by his doctors that he would never move from his bed or even breathe without assistance. But Francesco fought back. Within days, he was breathing on his own. His father, a doctor himself, investigated every opportunity for experimental treatment, and Francesco used every resource available to speed his recovery. To avoid having his lungs painfully suctioned, he sang, loudly, for hours–and that was just the beginning.

[…]

Seven years after the accident, Francesco continues to improve and to surprise his doctors–for instance, he can now work on a computer.¬†Walking Papers¬†is the inspiring story of how, with individual determination and unconditional family support, Francesco Clark overcame extreme adversity and achieved an extraordinary triumph.

And come to find out, Francesco Clark was NOT happy that his autobiography was spotlighted in this film. As he stated in an interview:

“I was never asked if my book could be included in the movie, nor was I ever told that it would be included. While I understand that this movie is based on a work of fiction, my book ‚Äď and my life ‚Äď is not.”

Got research?

If you just can’t get enough of the time-honored tradition of fast-forwarding plots with library research montages, then check out my posts for WarGames, He’s On My Mind, and¬†Spotlight, just to name a few.

Sources used:

“You went to the library” | The importance of library books in ‘Zodiac’

It often happens in my life that when I settle down to watch a movie at home, a library or librarian gets mentioned onscreen… and then date night turns into “film analysis” night. Like I have said before, once you are aware of reel librarians, you start seeing (or hearing about them) EVERYWHERE. ūüôā

The movie in question this past week was David Fincher’s 2007 film Zodiac, based on the true events of the Zodiac serial killer, as detailed in the 1986¬†non-fiction book of the same name¬†by¬†Robert Graysmith. The Zodiac’s killing spree was in and around the¬†San Francisco Bay Area¬†during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the killer sent several letters and ciphers to the police and newspapers. The film’s star-studded cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as newspaper cartoonist Graysmith, Robert Downey, Jr. as reporter Paul Avery, and Mark Ruffalo as¬†Inspector David Toschi.

Here’s a trailer for Zodiac:

Zodiac – Trailer,” uploaded by YouTube Movies, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License¬†

*POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD*

Although no librarian is featured in this movie, and no scenes are set in a library onscreen, this film DOES include several scenes that highlight libraries and library books. Reel librarians are often used as shortcuts for plot progression; in this case, just the library books themselves are used as plot shortcuts. Therefore, it’s a Class V film (no librarians featured), but I found it an interesting film to analyze, nonetheless.

Shall we?

Cracking the library code

At 52 minutes into this 157-minute film (it’s a really long, slow-paced film, y’all), Graysmith is talking with Avery in a bar about a cipher the Zodiac killer used to write a note to the police, challenging the public to crack his message. Graysmith explains the starting point to figuring out the coded message. (Underlining¬†throughout signifies my own emphasis.)

Avery:¬† But how do you go from “A” is one, “B” is two to figuring out this whole code?

Graysmith:  Same way I did. You go to the library.

At this point, Graysmith takes out a book from his briefcase, a book entitled The Code Breakers by David Kahn.

NOTE:¬† This is a real book, by the way, first published in 1967. I looked it up. ‘Cause librarian. ūüėČ And for sake of the timeline, the first official Zodiac killing occurred in 1969.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

The Code Breakers book in a scene from ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

Graysmith:  In this book, the author presents a very simple substitution code in the preface. Eight of the 26 symbols that he suggests are in this cipher.

He then takes out another book from his briefcase, this one entitled Codes and Ciphers by John Laffin. This book describes another Middle Ages code called the “Zodiac Alphabet.”

NOTE:¬† Yep, another real book, this one published in 1964. Gotta hand it to the David Fincher team for its research skills. HOWEVER, that team overlooked the detail of including call numbers, because neither one of these books has a call number — and Graysmith clearly states that he got them from a library. A real library book would have a call number on the spine. Back in the 1960s, it was commonplace to strip the paper covers from hardback books, and then either paint on call numbers or otherwise affix typed call numbers onto the spine. But dully colored hardback books would not have cinematic impact, so I suspect the product team just bought first edition copies and didn’t think about call numbers. But librarians do! ūüėČ

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Codes and Ciphers book in a scene from ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

Newspaper research:

Any film involving reporters has to include a scene in the newspaper archives, right? This almost obligatory scene, lasting only a minute, occurs a little over an hour into the film. Avery takes Graysmith to the newspaper archives, looking for copies of the Modesto Bee. (Yep, a real newspaper, founded in 1884. Of course I had to look that up, too!) They gather clues from newspaper clippings to suggest that some killings the Zodiac killer confessed to are in doubt, because he only provides clues in letters written after articles in the newspaper came out.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Newspaper archives in ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Newspaper archives in ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

I also wanted to include a couple of screenshots from this scene because of how visually they remind me of ANOTHER archives scene in a library directed by David Fincher, 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Read my analysis of that film here.)

Real library filming location:

I mentioned earlier that no scenes are set in a library onscreen. However, the production team did use a real-life library location… as a police station.

At one hour and 12 minutes into the film, several regional police officers travel to the Riverside Police Department to discuss a potential early victim of the Zodiac killer.

Here’s the narration of the victim’s last night — which also includes a library!

Cheri Jo Bates attended Riverside Community College. She studies in the library the night of Oct. 30, 1966. She leaves with an unidentified male at closing, 9 p.m. Her body’s found the next morning in a parking lot, stabbed to death.

This is based on true events; Bates’s murder has been linked to the Zodiac killings. Below is a screenshot of the note she left her father:¬† “Dad — went to RCC Library.

NOTE:¬† There is technically not a current “Riverside Community College.” There is now a Riverside City College, which had been known as “Riverside Community College” during the 1960s. The college is part of the Riverside Community College District. So the film got this detail correct, as the school was known as “Riverside Community College” during this time period.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Library note in victim’s file

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Real-life library filming location (interior) in ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

The interior and exteriors of this scene at the Riverside Police Station were filmed at the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum in Culver City, California. The library’s website includes a “Facility Rentals” page with “competitive film location pricing.” The photos on that page definitely correspond to the screenshots above and below.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Real-life library filming location (exterior) in ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Real-life library filming location (exterior) in ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

“You went to the library”

Graysmith continues to track down clues about the Zodiac killer, even when others have given up. At 1 hour and 44 minutes into the film, Graysmith visits Avery, who has left (been fired? or otherwise forced out?) from his job as a reporter and is living in a trailer. Avery challenges why Graysmith is even continuing down the Zodiac path.

Graysmith:  It was important.

Avery:¬† Then what did you ever do about it? If it was so fucking important, then what did you ever do? You hovered over my desk, you stole from wastebaskets… you went to the library.

Graysmith:¬† I’m sorry I bothered you.¬†[leaves]

I just want to point out that the man who basically says that Graysmith was doing nothing — that going to the library meant doing nothing — is living amidst trash and alcohol bottles and (un)dressed in boxers and a robe. Yeahhhhhh…. it’s Graysmith who has been doing nothing with his life. ūüė¶

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Avery sits in judgment, amidst beer bottles and Pong

Library as alibi?

In the scene immediately following his confrontation with Avery, Graysmith arrives home late. His wife asks him where he has been.

Graysmith’s response?¬† “The library.”

He puts down books on the chair, the same code-breaking books we saw in the earlier scene with Avery. It’s not clear whether he’s using the library as an alibi, or if it’s where he really went after seeing Avery. Either explanation is plausible, although I’m erring toward the alibi angle.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

The library as alibi? Complete with props!

Tracing library book records:

This next scene, between Graysmith and Inspector Toschi, feels like a companion piece to the first scene I mentioned between Graysmith and Avery; this scene takes place in a diner while the earlier scene occurred in a bar. Both involve library books.

This scene occurs at one hour, 47 minutes into the film, and lasts about a minute and a half.

Graysmith:¬†I wanted to ask you about the Zodiac. [Timeline note:¬† At this point, the Zodiac killer hadn’t written a letter in three years]

Toschi nods assent.

Graysmith:¬† Can I show you something? [Takes out books from his briefcase — sound familiar?] I’ve been doing research on the first cipher. Everything an amateur would need to create it can be found in these books. Now, I started thinking that if you can track these books, then maybe you can track the man. So I remember that you thought the Zodiac was military, so I went to every base library and I got a list of every person who’s ever checked out these books, and that’s when I found this.

He then takes out a sheaf of papers and hands them to Toschi. (Side note:  I did notice that at least one of the books below, a thinner tan-colored one, *does* have a call number label on its spine. Hurrah!)

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Getting lists of library book checkouts in ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

Toschi:  Missing.

Graysmith:  It means they were stolen.

Toschi:  So, almost every book on ciphers was stolen from the Presidio Library?

Graysmith:¬† And the Oakland Army Terminal Library. Somebody didn’t want a record of ever having checked out these books.

Toschi:  Who are you again?

Graysmith:  I just wanna help.

I have to note that this scene reminded me very much of another David Fincher film, 1995’s Seven, in which they track down the killer through library checkouts. (Note to self:¬† I need to rewatch and analyze Seven soon for this blog!)

I also have to interject as a librarian about how UNETHICAL this is, what Graysmith just described. Librarians giving up library checkout information and records to a civilian??! Nope. No way. Nuh-uh. That requires a court order or a search warrant. If this detail is true — and in this scene, Graysmith clearly states, “I got a list of every person who’s ever checked out these books” — then he got those lists from unethical (or clueless) librarians or library workers. It reminds me of another, similar scene of an librarian doing this SAME THING, in 1943’s The Seventh Victim, in a post I entitled, “The horror of an unethical librarian.” Reel librarians may be shortcuts in movies, but we are NOT shortcuts to proper police procedures in real life.

Okay, soap box moment over. Now onto the final scene mentioning a library, or rather…

“The fuckin’ library”

At two hours into the film, in a scene lasting fewer than 30 seconds, we see Avery drinking again, this time in a bar. (Progress?) The TV is on, and he looks up as a news reporter mentions the Zodiac killer. The reporter is interviewing Graysmith.

Reporter:¬† In the decade since the Zodiac’s last cipher was received, every federal agency has taken a crack at decoding it. But today, where those agencies had failed, a cartoonist has succeeded.

Reporter, asking Graysmith:  How did you do it?

Graysmith:  Oh, uh, just a lot of books from the library.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

TV news interview from ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

Avery then quips, “Yeah, the fuckin’ library.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Avery comments, “Yeah. The fuckin’ library” in a scene from ‘Zodiac’ (2007)

That’s right, Avery, the fuckin’ library. ūüėČ

And it’s amusing to me that the first scene that mentions library books happens with Avery, who was consistently condescending throughout the film about the library to Graysmith. But then Avery himself is the one who comes full circle, back to the library.

Here’s a screenshot of Avery’s facial expression from that first scene with Avery and the code-breaking library books. I feel his smug facial expression says it all.

Reel Librarians | Screenshot from 'Zodiac' (2007)

Yep, that’s right, the fuckin’ library.

There are 7 scenes total in this Class V film that mention libraries or library books or otherwise take place in an archives or library setting. The duration of those scenes last for a combined 12-15 minutes (only 10% out of a 157-minute running time!), but the combined scenes and library books leave a lasting impression.

Have you seen Zodiac? If so, do you remember the through-line and theme of library books and real-life research? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used: