The times, technology, and social attitude may have changed, but the paranoia from the post war era still remains in 1971’s Klute. In Klute we have three main characters, Peter Cable, John Klute, and Bree Daniels. Despite their numerous differences, they all share one particular characteristic. Throughout the movie these three characters are acting. By this I mean that the person who they portray themselves as in public is not necessarily who they are in private.
The character who most displays acting is our villain, Peter Cable. From our opening shot, we see Peter blending in with the soon to be murder Tom, his family, and Klute around a dinner table. He is all smiles on the surface, but deep down something diabolical brews. After the murder and the official police investigation, Peter hires Klute to privately investigate the case. This continues his ploy to act humanly despite his diabolical ways. Peter clearly lives a luxurious lifestyle, complete with a fancy office, a helicopter and a plethora of other resources. Underneath the glitz and glamour is a man with psychotic and sexually deviant behavior. He engages in fetishes with prostitutes, he stalks Bree, he records her voice, he murders several people, and he tries to cover it up by assuming the role as a well respected man of the community. Peter represses his deviance by acting like a successful businessman and will kill his friend to protect that image.
Along with actually being a struggling actor, Bree acts throughout the movie. Bree, as opposed to Peter operates on and uses her sexuality. While Peter hides his sexual urges in public, Bree uses hers for advancement, being that she is a prostitute. When Bree acts in everyday life, it is to cover up her paranoia. She pretends to be strong in daily life to conceal her weaknesses and fears. Bree faces judgment everyday in the acting world, and in some ways turns to prostitution as a way to feel secure. Bree is also very isolated in her single apartment before Klute shows up, despite the fact that she lives in a bustling city and is in a people business. In addition Bree is stalked by Peter throughout the film, adding to her paranoia. The only person to whom Bree can clearly open up to is her psychiatrist. She tells her psychiatrists that she only really feels comfortable when engaging with a client. This is similar to Peter, who only shows his real self when engaging in sexual activity. The choice of her being an actor could be an intentional way to draw parallels between her dream job and how Bree acts in public.
The hardest character to interpret is our title character, John Klute. Klute is a quite man, who feels like a fish out of water in the lively New York City environment. When Klute acts, it is mostly early on in the film, regarding Bree. He tries to ignore her sexual advances, but eventually falls to his urges after she visits him vulnerable in the middle of the night. In their first prolonged encounter, Klute even goes as far as to tell her to stop undressing to avoid sexual tension. Eventually he is involved in a weird father daughter relationship, but also a sexual one with Bree. When Klute acts it is only really in the beginning of the film, and that is to avoid complicating the investigation with sexual feelings.
The reason why most of these characters act is that they are unable to adapt to their environment. This is suggested through the end of the film when Bree packs up and leaves New York City, for a more suitable location. The theme of people covering up who they really are is suggested throughout Klute, especially in the characters of Peter, Bree, and Klute. While only during sexual encounters is the real personality evident. To paraphrase Bree’s voice recording, “Sometimes we just need to let it out,” can be seen as an overarching theme of the movie.