Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Disturbed and f'ed up.

I have neglected this blog heinously, which is truly shameful because I have way too much to say about way too many movies. I really need to figure out a writing schedule.

For now, I list the top ten most emotionally scarring movies I have ever seen. IE, these are the movies that left me wondering whether or not I should have watched them, movies that altered the way I view the world, movies that I've probably seen only once but still think about. Movies that actually BOTHERED me-- and for someone who watches pretty much every movie that comes along, that's saying alot.

The absolute number one spot goes to Mysterious Skin, a movie I was aware was going to be dark, but good God. Whenever I enter into the eternal (usually internal) debate about artistic responsibility. Generally I feel that if it exists, we should be able to make a movie about it. However... that doesn't mean that what we put out into the world isn't dangerous, and isn't there a line between illustrating/educating/enlightening and terrorizing? I'm not sure where that line is when it comes to DRAMA (as opposed to horror/gorefests, which one can easily gauge where the filmmakers went off the tracks into exploitation land) and the human experience. I DO know that I was profoundly, PROFOUNDLY disturbed by Mysterious Skin, the exploration of the lives of two young men who had been molested/raped at a very young age and the affect of that attack on their lives. Each responded differently, one blotting it out and replacing it with fantasy, his fear mixed with awe and a quest to find out what really happened, the other fully remembering every last detail and blurring evil with love. Their lives are fucked up. We get to see how, in fact, fucked up their lives are. There's not much hope, really, but I suppose in the end the truth is finally spoken and that is a positive thing.

Interestingly, this movie was made by a famously homosexual director, and he explores a character that the homosexual community does not seem to be fond of (the gay kid/flagrant hustler who was molested by a dude). From what I understand the gay community doesn't dig allegations that one is turned gay due to trauma (prompting one to question if the abused are really homosexual or not, or in their case is it a choice? sidetrack...), but this director doesn't really care about or focus so much on the hustler's sexual preference so much as his damaged sexuality and persona in general. He is brave to show the ugly side of homosexuality as well as humanity.

The scenes in here were apparently carefully shot, and though the scenes involving the child actors do not *show anything* they are absolutely mortifying. Mortifying. Even more mortifying is the idea that THIS HAPPENS ALL OF THE FUCKING TIME. This film is brilliant in its illustration of the domino effect of pedophilia not just in the lives of the victims but the community of victims as well. The victimized tend to love their abuser, seek to imitate them in some way, and, as we all know, a high percent of molesters were once molested. The cycle just goes on and on and on.

Another thing I really appreciate about this film is that there is no attempt to make the lead character (JGL in a FEARLESS performance. cheesy to say but utterly true) terribly sympathetic, other than the insight that we are given into his abuse. He is hurtful to everyone around him, he is prickly and exhausting to watch, and as we finally find out he has continued the cycle of distorted sexuality and abuse from the age of eight.

I think about this movie alot. Not just the absolutely dreadful abuse scenes, but the general tragedy contained within. It hurts me to think about, and it brings me back to thoughts I've had in the past about becoming, much much later in life, a psychiatrist/psychologist/counselor for those struggling with pedophilia/those rehabilitating. Of course it is probably the most difficult, taboo subject, and not one that I can fully wrap my mind around, but it is something that deeply troubles me. Watching films like this, Little Children, and The Woodsman makes me wonder if such things should really be floating around, perhaps into the wrong hands, like people twisted enough to see these films as confirmation that pedophilia is not so inhuman, or people who are rendered completely helpless by them. They cannot think or discuss what they have seen, they can only be horrified. That is not good, either, and I do believe that sometimes a film that could enlighten is sometimes even worse than observing trauma or a victim firsthand-- it is less tangible, it is only in front of you but not with you, and yet you cannot get rid of it. That is very bad for some people. Probably for most normal people.

But for me-- not to say that I'm this extra-special exception or whathaveyou that just UNDERSTANDS these things, I still feel sick and helpless and dirty when I see them, however-- I think I can filter it. I think I can do something with it, rather than putting it in a too-small box ready to spill into my nightmares later.

Also, sidenote, the fact that JGL got almost ZERO recognition for this role is INSANE. IN. EFFING. SANE.


  1. This has been on my netflix since Inception came out and every time it gets closer to number one, I lose the nerve to actually watch it.

    Your review has only increased my apprehension. But it sounds like a good movie. Maybe one day I'll have the courage.

    "From what I understand the gay community doesn't dig allegations that one is turned gay due to trauma (prompting one to question if the abused are really homosexual or not, or in their case is it a choice? sidetrack...), but this director doesn't really care about or focus so much on the hustler's sexual preference so much as his damaged sexuality and persona in general. He is brave to show the ugly side of homosexuality as well as humanity."

    I don't want to step on your toes or to be too, well, polemic--but I think the main issue with the idea that trauma "makes" someone homosexual is because with rape, orientation has actually very little to do with such an act of violence (which is usually about power/control). So a lot of people view that kind of argument as a red herring because they see it as confusing two separate things: one is an identification/attraction, the other is an act committed against another. Heterosexuals (and bisexuals and pansexuals and asexuals and pretty sure I'm forgetting others) have also been victims of that kind of trauma too, so a lot of people in the gay community don't necessarily see it as clear cut as "trauma makes you gay."

    But, just from your comments, I would have to agree that the director was brave to go in that direction.

    As for your parenthetical, it's been something I've been wondering myself -- but I think it probably goes to the whole nature vs nurture debate.

  2. Well I totally agree with that and understand that (although I do think it's interesting that there seem to be so many high-profile cases of abuse in the homosexual community-- but then, vicious cycle again), and I wouldn't say that this movie nor I would estimate that being abused as a kid makes you gay, obviously. The gay community has reason to strongly object to that assumption. However I do remember reading that this director, whose films are all very prominent in the homosexual community, got alot of flack for this movie and this character of the young gay hustler, even though I don't believe he's making a correlation between JGL's character's sexual orientation and his rape. Which I thought was really dumb (the flack), especially because part of the set-up of the film has that character stating that he was attracted to men even before his molester touched him-- in fact, he was attracted to his abuser. Which opens up a whole new can of worms. Anyway, I just think that ALL communities should take it easy and welcome rich characterization rather than viewing it as a strike against their political cause, like this director did. IE, just because I'm a christian I'm not going to reject the "evangelist" character in There Will Be Blood. Or what have you. [not that aren't lines that need to be drawn there, either

    Anyway, you know all that and I'm sure you get it, even if I don't explain it all that clearly.

    And yeah. I can never recommend this movie to anyone because I do not want to be responsible for ripping someone's heart out and leaving a permanent mark on their brain. I was so devastated by this movie when I saw it, which was... I think three or four years ago (long before JGL really achieved any kind of recognition as a popular actor- shame, I wonder if the film and his performance would have gotten more recognition if it had been made say, after 500 Days of Summer or Inception), and although I knew what it was vaguely about I didn't care because it had JGL in it and therefore it had to be seen. Eeh. After I saw it I was depressed for days and days and told everyone I knew the entire plotline, all the way to the end just so I could relieve myself of some of the burden of it. Which, really, is very unusual for me because I willingly watch tough movies as often as possible. I am not a movie pansy or someone like my mom who just steers clear of things I think will bother me. But this movie just BOTHERED ME and I still remember it SO vividly despite it being years since I saw it. Sigh. Don't see it unless you know what you're getting iiiiinto.

    OH but you should see MANIC. Another really tough performance in a gritty movie, but it probably won't leave you terribly scarred. plus. hot.