The scariest film you’ll see this Halloween might not be a fictional one. In his new documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore explores the 2016 Presidential Elections and the subsequent Trump era, and asks the question still on many of our minds: ‘Why?’
Moore is angry, but although we might expect all his anger to focus on the obvious villain of the story, Moore is smarter than that. He does not spare anyone in his quest to expose the American democratic system, going after Republicans and Democrats alike, taking it out on Trump, but also former president Barack Obama, the Electoral College, the entire political establishment, and even, in an almost painful-to-watch segment of a 1998 episode of Roseanne Barr’s talk show on which both Moore and Trump were guests, himself.
Yes, the first half hour of this almost two-and-a-half-hour brutal clash with reality focuses on Trump himself. Moore takes us back to that fateful night of 9 November, when Democrats were already celebrating their sure to be next president, Hillary Clinton. The night ends, as we all know, with Trump’s enlarged face projected on the Empire State Building. Although footage of Trump rallies and Trump’s obsession with his daughter Ivanka are still cringeworthy, Moore seems to be preaching to the choir here, we have seen all of this. But what is even scarier than Trump’s towering image on the Empire State? The rigged system that got him there.
This is how Moore drives his point across most poignantly. He reminds us how in the last thirty years, only one Republican has won the popular vote. How Bernie Sanders actually won many states on that same popular vote in the Primaries, but was voted out by Democrat veterans (old white men) who believed he was too anti-establishment. Moore uses his own hometown of Flint, Michigan, to confront us with the dangers of a government of self-serving billionaires. The Flint water crisis, which started when governor Rick Snyder privatised Michigan’s water system, is obviously close to Moore’s heart. In a way it becomes the backbone of the film.
For messages of hope Moore turns to the young citizens of the United States. The teenagers who started the March for Our Lives movement following the Parkland School Shooting. But also young citizens running for office, in an attempt to steer their country out of the abyss. He does not let these moments linger for too long though; Moore is too angry for that.
He might even be too angry. He dubs Trump’s voice over footage of Adolf Hitler. He uses images of the 2018 Hawaii false missile alert to remind the viewer of the state of reality. He jumps around in place and time. And like with every Michael Moore documentary, there is a lot of Michael Moore, while it might be better to have some of the images speak for themselves. Still, Moore manages to leave a lasting impact; where most horror movies help us out of our misery with some form of release, the scariest part about Fahrenheit 11/9 is that we have yet to find out how all of this will end.
Image: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons