Snowden watches the global fallout from Greenwald’s stories on the TV in his hotel room. Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, whom he left behind in Hawaii without a word of explanation, writes him that police have come to question her. He is shaken, imagining her realization that “the person that you love, that you spent the decade with, may not be coming back.” He types something on his laptop—presumably, a reply to Mills—but Poitras, respecting his privacy, doesn’t move the camera to show its content. As the days go by, Snowden’s anxiety increases, and the room becomes claustrophobic. A fire alarm keeps going off—routine testing, he’s told. The bedside phone rings—“I’m afraid you have the wrong room,” he says, and hangs up. “Wall Street Journal,” he explains. His chin is stubbled and his hair won’t lie flat. He seems to be growing visibly paler, and the many stretches of silence last longer; Poitras’s camera stays close to him, at once exposing and protective. In such a small space, from which there’s no exit, the presence of a camera has a distorting effect, and it turns Snowden into a character in a play. Unlike Dr. Riyadh and his family, who went about their lives as Poitras trailed them, Snowden can never forget that he’s being filmed. There are few moments of self-betrayal.
Eight Days In a Hong Kong Hotel Room With Edward Snowden