Thought Crimes

Dubbed “The Cannibal Cop,” former NYPD officer Gilberto Valle was convicted of conspiring to kidnap and eat women in March 2013. Valle had argued it was all a fantasy, but the prosecution’s narrative convinced jurors otherwise. His story made headlines not only for its chilling details, but also because of its landmark decision regarding a man many consider “patient zero” in a growing thought-police trend across the nation. Featuring unprecedented, intimate interviews with Valle and his family, as well as insights from lawyers, journalists, psychological professionals and criminal experts, THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP explores this complicated case, asking if someone can be found guilty for his or her most dangerous thoughts.

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  • ★★★½ review by Austin Wolf-Sothern on Letterboxd

    A true crime doc, but without the crime. A cop who is for sure a scumbag, but not (yet?) a cannibal is having despicable fantasy chats (about real people) online, and possibly conspires to act on them. But he doesn't, so like, now what? The subject is definitely fascinating and challenging, but I don’t know that there were enough angles on it to sustain a full 80 minutes. I did love the twist at the end when we find out the whole movie was just the weirdest video dating profile of all time.

    It inspired me to look up my own Google search history. Judge for yourself, but I think I could be tried for a "conspiracy to get back on medication", "the crime of somehow still not knowing the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist despite having it clarified to me like 100 times and also having gone to both at various points," or worse yet, a "conspiracy to catch up on a controversial comedy clip from 6 months ago."

    -“what are my recent google searches”

    -“nick fury hasselhoff”

    -“red hot rock 1984”

    -“healthplex”

    -“empireblue health plus”

    -“arkady Barenboim md”

    -“psychology psychiatry”

    -“what is behavioral health”

    -“tina fey weekend update summer edition”

    What are YOUR thought crimes? Invade your own privacy and put your Google searches in the comments!

  • ★★★★ review by Chris Brown on Letterboxd

    Thought provoking (but don't think too much!) doc that gives a very even handed account of the Case of the Cannibal Cop.

    There is certainly people like me who's immediate, knee jerk response is "The guy should be allowed to think whatever he wants to!" but it's hard to completely dismiss some of the "real" evidence that was presented by the prosecution. Though he was essentially writing "a fantasy work of fiction" with himself as the lead character on a fetish website, there were moments that were mirroring his real life. Did he visit an old school friend because he was fantasising about eating her, or did he fantasise because he knew he'd be visiting her soon?

    As a avid reader of horror fiction who enjoys Edward Lee, Wrath James White and even dipped my toe into Dennis Cooper (and immediately withdrew that toe! That stuff was nasty!), I would be appalled if anyone tried to prosecute these writers for what they thought. But Thought Crimes asks enough questions about whether it was fiction or forethought in this case, that it makes for a very compelling watch rather than feel that you're being editorialised to.

  • ★★★½ review by danote on Letterboxd

    Este es el escenario: un tipo común y corriente, 33 años le calculo, tiene a su esposa y a su hijita, se lleva bien con sus papás, es policía en Estados Unidos. Vive tranquilo. Pero por las noches se queda chateando en sitios como darkfetish punto com, y chateaba con extraños sobre sus fantasías de secuestrar, torturar, violar, y cocinar gente (no necesariamente en ese orden). Entra el dilema: ¿es necesario arrestar a esta persona de manera preventiva o es inocente hasta que mueva un dedo?

    El dilema es explorado de manera interesante, pero tiene la desventaja de que el acusado, quien aparece y declara y platica su versión, es un ñetillas difícil de tomar en serio. Me da lástima el señor, el que todo el mundo sepa de sus fantasías, y tener que platicar sobre cómo le da pena lo sucedido en frente de su mamá porque está en arresto domiciliario es suficiente castigo.

  • ★★★½ review by Alberto del Rio Medina on Letterboxd

    Estoy 100% a favor de que la mujer haya reaccionado de esa manera, yo también lo hubiera hecho, vaya esto es algo bastante desagradable de descubrir, como la vez que le cache a uno de mis amigos que escribía erotic fan fiction de Dragon Ball Z, (mil veces mejor que 50 Shades by the way).

    Aun así, ¿cárcel? No sé, chance eso fue demasiado, por cierto no estoy spoileriando nada, ¿ok? El documental se dedica a estudiar el porqué de usar esas fantasías como escape por parte de Gilberto Valle, El Policía Caníbal. Y tiene sus momentos interesantes.

    Esto es casi una fabula de la importancia de borrar tu historial cada determinado tiempo.

  • ★★★★★ review by Jack Keane on Letterboxd

    "...these evil thoughts and behaviors exist within human beings. It’s not a product of technology or possession by the devil or any kind of outside force. It comes from us. The darkness comes from us."

    ***

    Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is the famous scientific theory that was created to be applied to quantum physics.

    (Not to mention its more recent canonisation of giving certain wannabe drug lords a catchy alias in a certain Vince Gilligan show of excellent repute).

    But it's also quite a handy principle to serve as a metaphor that can be applied to many aspects of human nature and morality.

    To quote Alok Jha's Guardian article about the Heisenberg theory:

    "Unlike Isaac Newton's clockwork universe, where everything follows clear-cut laws on how to move and prediction is easy if you know the starting conditions, the uncertainty principle enshrines a level of fuzziness into quantum theory."

    We, as human beings, often like to think that Life has some sort of order to it; that as messy as things seem at any given moment, these random events may eventually slot into place as part of a grander scheme; that our flawed natures can easily be attributed to some singularly significant part of our past; or that we can predict the path our own - or someone else's - life will take, just by looking at the starting conditions we're dealt.

    That's the Clockwork Universe theory.

    But Life is messy, and random, and infinitely complex, and the closer you look at everything, what was once clear-cut black-and-white becomes increasingly fuzzy and grey and uncertain.

    'Thought Crimes' is a story that exists entirely within that feeling of uncertainty.

    It is a consistently and thoroughly uneasy watch, where you are presented with a ceaseless barrage of no easy answers, no concrete solutions (nor even concrete problems to begin with), no good guys, no bad guys...no nothing.

    The film concerns the case of Gilberto Valle - an NYPD police officer with a wife and child, who hid a disturbing, nocturnal second life in the darkest depths of the Internet, where he would engage in discussions of fantasies he had about abducting, sexually assaulting, and cannibalising women - and the trial held over his crimes, and whether or not they were actually crimes at all, considering he never acted on any of his fantasies.

    This is where the film starts to blur every single line that the case draws between what we consider "good" and "bad", or "right" and "wrong".

    Do you punish people who have evil thoughts, even if they never act on those evil thoughts?

    Are you preventing a real life crime from happening before it happens, or does that make you no more than the Thought Police from 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'?

    Does discussing those societally unacceptable thoughts on the Internet with accepting strangers a good way of expelling those urges from ever becoming physical, or does it only lead to those urges growing stronger?

    How can you know for sure what's in a person's mind or soul?

    Would you have the right to know, so that you could know who is good, and who is monstrous?

    How can you know that a potentially monstrous person isn't lying to you - or even to themselves?

    Can a man be a truly loving son or husband to his mother or wife when his darkest sexual fantasies all involve the hideously misogynistic degradation, punishment, and actual consumption of women?

    Can you blame a wife for reporting her husband's horrific online activities and ruining his life, when that selfsame husband involved her, their child, and their female friends in his dark fetishes, potentially putting their lives at risk?

    Is acting on what a person could "potentially" do, better or worse than acting on what a person has definitely already done?

    In this mind-boggling case, what can be accurately considered right or wrong anymore?

    'Thought Crimes' is a stupendously thought-provoking, bone-chilling, stomach-churningly discomforting documentary that is not a pleasant experience in the slightest, but it is most assuredly an absolute must-see piece of work.

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