Sy, The Photo Guy

Posted: March 26, 2015 in Blogs
Tags: , , , , ,

one hour photo

“No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.”

The irony in that statement by Sy, The Photo Guy, leaves a sinister tone and much to think about, especially after watching One Hour Photo. Robin Williams brings to life a bland, yet an emotionally desperate man who works at a photo lab for a Costco like chain. Sy is soft spoken, gentle and has hair so blondish white, it’s practically invisible. He lays out all kinds of customers one gets in a lab like this, but develops a liking to the Yorkin family, a regular customer. Through these photos, Sy has watched their son, Jakob, grow and has become Uncle Sy in a world that only he sees. Sy comes to an empty, quiet home, where he holds a shrine to the Yorkins, a dirty secret one would have if he were to collect pedophiliac pornography. He lives through their photos, not as a monster, but as someone who yearns for a family filled with affection, which is what he believes he sees in these photos.  The cinematography is as still as these photographs, letting the audience know the director is making sure you only see what he wants you to see. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, then stop here as I’m mainly going to touch on a later sequence in the film.

When a new customer arrives, Sy learns that the Yorkins aren’t as perfect as he perceived them to be and his world begins to fall apart. The film goes to a literal level of destroying the snapshots of what is considered the perfect family and we venture into the unease and perverse. When Sy gets fired from his job, he drops off a roll of film containing voyeuristic photos of his supervisor’s daughter, implying a threat, maybe?

After learning of Will Yorkin’s affair, Sy corners him and the other woman in their hotel room and forces to reenact sexual acts for the sake of the camera. What’s fascinating here is Sy isn’t getting off on taking these pictures. He’s visibly upset, both angry and sad, while taking their pictures. The act is invasive and humiliating and we are unsure of where Sy is going with this. He doesn’t physically hurt either one by the end, but the cops find them sitting alone, naked, and emotionally raped. The cops eventually find and arrest Sy, using his photos as evidence of his crimes. During his interrogation, Sy describes how a loving family would never force a child to do adult things and take pictures of those things. Was Sy a victim of sexual abuse as a child? Is Sy himself a victim of the very crime he committed to Will Yorkin?

One Hour Photo is filled with interesting set pieces, varying from the blank surroundings of Sy to the lavish consumer driven appliances of the Yorkins’ home. Even in Sy’s fantasies, the stock colors that surround him at home and work are filled with vibrant colors and smiles. The film leaves motives ambiguous and we are left with a photograph of a happy family photography of the Yorkins, one that includes Sy. If I were to sit at the table as Sy, then I would ask him, why did you take those photos? if I were to sit at the table with director Mark Romanek, then I would ask, why did you make Sy take them? It would be interesting to compare both of their answers.

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