Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Devouring Films: Mysterious Skin
I don't really massively want to review it, so much as talk about the main thing that impressed me about it. See, Mysterious Skin is basically a tale of child molestation, and its after-effects and what it does to its victims. Joseph Gordon Levitt (JGL to, well, me) plays Neil, the baseball coach's 'favourite' and the boy who, after it's over, fully remembers it all, and even thinks upon it fondly as a time when someone truly loved him (which isn't to say that he's not completely fucked up by it, because he's a male prostitute for goodness sakes. But it seems like his feelings about the abuse are very complex and maybe not even entirely settled.) The flipside of the story is the other boy who was abused, who has completely sublimated the entire thing but it's still had an effect on the things he does.
So that's what happens afterwards. But what the film actually does is show the abuse (to a certain extent), which obviously makes the film a whole lot more shocking, and I'm sure earned it plenty of criticism before and I'm sure after its release. Criticism which, I think, is pretty unfair considering how utterly well done it is. Because it's so clever- apparently the child actors were given their lines out of context so they weren't traumatised by the whole abuse thing (LIKE I WAS WATCHING IT) and the molester's propositioning and pleasure faces (pleasure faces? I feel like any way I said this would be wrong...) are done directly to camera, which has the dual bonus of not inflicting that on the kids, and also putting the audience in the children's position. So I approve of this because of 1) the sensitivity towards the child actors, and 2) the impact on the audience (i.e. me).
And I mean... I guess the film would still have worked without explicitly showing the abuse (I mean... not explicitly. But it's really clear what's happening. And apparently difficult to explain) but because they did so, it was really easy to see where Neil's issues especially came from (this guy was paying him LOADS of unhealthy attention, but to this 8 year old kid, it felt like really nice attention especially because his mother doesn't seem overly interested in him), and because it was so well done, it seems difficult to complain about. Also, I just have to add that child JGL is SO good- He really looks like a teeny version of JGL, only with really deep blue eyes (seriously cute kid) and so to get round this they got JGL to wear blue contact lenses. I am totally on board with this too.
Mysterious Skin is in no way easy to watch, but on balance I'm really glad that I did. I'm so impressed with how cleverly and sensitively everything was done, and I feel like the subject matter, which is more or less the WORST in the world was handled really really well. The ending is incredibly moving, and overall, I just really really appreciated the film. I would say liked, but liked is the wrong word, so appreciated? Much better. I should probably add as a disclaimer that Michelle Trachtenburg is also in this film, but you can mainly just ignore her as you always should. JGL forever though!