Everyday Camouflage in “The Visitor”

The story told by Tom McCarthy in his highly commendable film The Visitor, which deals, among other things, with the issue of illegal immigration in post 9/11 USA, unfolds in part in and around a Queens, New York, detention center that is a perfect example of everyday camouflage.

In The Visitor, a recently widowed and disillusioned university professor named Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) befriends, through unexpected circumstances, a young Syrian named Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), who is arrested one day and sent to a detention center operated by the sinister “United Correctional Corporation”. When Tarek’s mother Mouna (Hiam Abass) shows up at Walter’s door some days later worried about her son, Walter takes her to Queens so she can see where her son is being detained. Walter and Mouna stop across the street from the detention center, and the following dialogue ensues:

WALTER: That’s it.
MOUNA: This is where the prison is?
WALTER: Yes. That’s it.
MOUNA: It does not look like a prison.
WALTER: I think that’s the point.

The dialogue reveals the insidiousness of everyday camouflage perfectly.

About Rafael Gomez-Moriana

I am an architect, writer and educator. rafagomo.com chronicles my architectural making, writing, teaching and curating activity, while criticalista.com is an archive of my writings as well as a platform for venting personal rants and observations. I studied architecture at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and at the Berlage Institute (the Netherlands). I direct the University of Calgary’s architecture term-abroad program in Barcelona, and have previously taught in the Metropolis Masters Program in Architecture and Urban Culture, CIEE Architecture and Design program, as well as at Carleton University and the University of Manitoba.

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