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!
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Hm, this sounds like a really good film but I think I would just be upset throughout if I watched it. It is as you say pretty much the worst subject matter in the world and I'm glad that the seem to have handled it in a sensitive, thoughtful way. Not so sure if I could handle watching it though...ReplyDelete
I was fairly upset throughout, and it's definitely not an easy watch! But also I'm glad I watched it, if that makes sense? (It probably doesn't).Delete
Yea after reading your spoiler below, definitely not happening. Plus I just noticed the phrase "pleasure faces". Ick.Delete
This sounds incredibly good and also a film I will never watch because it's giving me the creeps just thinking about it. Even if it does have JGLReplyDelete
Well... I'm glad I made you come to that conclusion? I think. It was INCREDIBLY upsetting and tbh, if I'd read a description of it first I would have been like NO, so... yeah. I understand! (also *SPOILER* JGL gets raped by a prostitution client and it's TERRIBLE. That was actually harder to watch than the child abuse [cause it was all like, violent and AWFUL]) Yeah, I shouldn't really be recommending anyone watches this...Delete
OK, yup, after your spoiler thing DEF not gonna see this movie. A movie I bet is very good and even an important one for people to see, but nope.Delete
But yes, thank you for the warning review so I don't go "Oh hai, a JGL movie! Well this will be a lovely eve...OMG what is happening???"
Oomph. On the one hand: JGL (as I will now call him); on the other: terrible awful heartwrenching subject matter and "pleasure faces." I just can't. But I'm glad to have heard of it!ReplyDelete
It's ok, I've watched it for you and you can rest assured that JGL is excellent, and that maybe no one should watch this ever!Delete
I watched this about 5 years ago and holy shit it's good. So hard to watch, and probably the only film where I've actually felt like I needed to shower afterwards. I've recommended this to so many people, but I'm always like "it's completely messed up and upsetting and traumatic but sldkjfhklsjadfh great film so do it"!!ReplyDelete