Monday, June 20, 2005

FILM: Mysterious Skin

We saw Mysterious Skin on Saturday. Wow. This film was well made. It was also brutal and disturbing, and very hard to watch at times. Director Gregg Araki tackles a very touchy and little-explored film subject, that of sexually abused children. The film shows us two different boys, who both suffer a life-warping childhood experience, but whose emotional scars manifest in very different ways. Their story unfolds in layers, cutting between scenes of the young boys being molested and scenes of them as young adults trying to make sense of their lives. Araki's treatment is absolutely unflinching, keeping the camera steady on through scenes that most of us would not like to even think about let alone watch, and after seeing it you may feel abused. But that is the intention, to enable the audience to really get inside the head of an abused child, and that necessarily includes experiencing the abuse. I was left with a much more palpable appreciation of how someone could experience something so twisted and horrible that they completely suppress the memory of it. Araki's direction is amazing, especially considering how he must have actually filmed it, with much of the on-screen interaction being filmed between actors who were never actually together, but only spliced together in the editing room. (The making of this movie would certainly make an interesting story. As we watched the credits roll after the movie, I felt a surge of reaction to the unintended irony of seeing the AHA seal of assurance that no animals were harmed in the making of this film. Animals??? How about an assurance that no children were harmed in the making of this film!) There is no political correctness here, nor any heavy-handed point of view. Just a brutally honest look at a horror that too many children experience, along with a surprising story of two young men coming to grips with their past. If you can bear the assault of the graphic scenes, you will experience a remarkable story, as well as gain a deeper understanding of an incomprehensible experience. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet both put in amazing performances. This film is most definitely not for everybody, but selectively and advisedly I would recommend it.

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