The tactics used by the makers of Odysseus’ Gambit effectively capture the strange character of an unconventional chess player and immigrant from Cambodia.
In the beginning the man is blended in with those on the subway and you don’t see his face—he could be anyone on the street, just another person that you’d come across in a big city. However, when he puts on his hat and sets up his chess, and you begin to see this person in his own environment, it becomes clear that he is the subject of the documentary and there are things that set him apart from others. It was also interesting that they didn’t show Natalie’s face, because really her part in the video wasn’t dependent on her herself. The part that she played was to evoke emotion within the subject, to make him more appealing to the audience and to define his character. After he says “That’s love, you never give up,” then talks about Natalie and says “maybe I can love again”, it is a major appeal to pathos. Despite the hardships that he has experienced, the subject still manages to find happiness and peace with his surroundings.
Another defining tactic within the video was the interspersion of the subject’s original music, particularly the same lyric multiple times: “Don’t know why I used to cry”, circulating throughout. The lyric references the difficult past of the subject, and towards the middle of the video he elaborates that he was taken from Cambodia by the U.S. government as a child, because of the violence and destruction taking place there. The first time the music is played, its cut off quickly after showing footage from the time of the Cambodian genocide. There’s a clear juxtaposition between the seemingly positive nature of the subject, and the images shown with his music. The music gets louder with the images to give a sense of possibly the subject’s past overwhelming him, and causing him to perhaps lose the positivity that seems to define his character. At the end, there’s silence as violent scenes from Cambodia are shown in a way that signifies they may be images that run through the subject’s mind frequently, yet at the very end his music has returned, and thus his prevailing spirit. The images of Cambodian violence as well as the subject’s reference to his picture in The Washington Post are also an appeal to ethos, as it references real, commonly known events.
This story is told very effectively through its medium. The creators had only about twelve minutes to capture a person’s entire essence, and they chose scenes that effectively did that. The footage of the cigarette butts littered around his area showed that he spent most of his time in the environment in which we saw him. His conversations with Natalie and when he uses his subway card for a stranger show his kindness. His spite for the U.S. Government show his frustration. By the end, the audience is left with an adequate understanding of the subject, and perhaps an appreciation for his eccentric nature.