I was at ends on what to write for this blog, though I did settle on something I recently noticed in cinema. So if this blog seems a bit weaker than some of my others this is probably why. This week I shall be looking into the realm of sympathetic monsters. Now I don’t mean monsters in the literal sense, I mean the title attributed to people who have performed unforgivable acts; got your attention yet?
I shall of course expand on that statement by simply listing examples: paedophiles, perverts, drug users etc. People who relate to performing these acts are often referred to as monsters, both within film and the general media. For most cases these figures will be a negative role within the film, something which the lead character has to overcome in order for the equilibrium to be re-established within the narrative. Quite often it will be a police officer trying to solve a case/spree of crimes or a family based drama concerning a member of the family who has succumbed to one of these vices. Occasional however a film will solely follow a character who suffers from one of these vices. The most common is that of the drug abuser. Films such as ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and ‘Half Nelson’ demonstrate this appropriately.
The ‘monster’ is treated with having an addiction (obviously), but that they are not the scary abuser that is the stereotype. ‘Half Nelson’ shows Dan (Ryan Gosling), a high school teacher who is addicted to drugs. The film portrays him more in a victim scenario, not to say that it’s not his fault that he’s addicted to drugs, but that he isn’t a bad person. He engages his class with the subject he’s teaching, he doesn’t have violent attributes and could be considered a role model. This film breaks the ‘monster’ stereotype of substance abusers; it could be any normal person who simply keeps their problems private. Of course substance abuse isn’t necessarily a problem which can be kept at bay hence you have the narrative form within ‘Half Nelson’.
Drug users may seem more of a lesser addiction compared to the ones listed in the opening of this blog. It is something which people enter into themselves, but it’s something which can be remedied via rehabilitation. An addiction like paedophilia is a much more difficult addiction to de-construct though. Now I must state here that I am not saying that paedophilia is right because it’s an addiction. I believe that it is an evil act, but that it is an addiction which most people over see. They simply see it as a character trait, it isn’t something which they may feel remorse over and want to overcome. There is only one film that comes to mind which tackles this monster that I can think of; ‘The Woodsman’. It’s a film which I have owned for a few years now but only recently watched it all the way through the other night (I was always interrupted before). The lead character Walter (played perfectly by Kevin Bacon) is a paedophile who has just been released from prison having spent 12 years there for molesting two girls. The film follows his character struggle with trying to overcome his addiction. How this way of life actually destroyed what ever life he had; he is ostracised from his family, much like drug addicts may be, yet people will generally trust or forgive a drug addict over a paedophile. Revelations occur when being faced with a mirror; witnessing another paedophile groom a small boy and coming across a girl who is potentially being molested by her father. These aspects cause Walter to see past his own addiction. I won’t write more about the narrative as it is a film I recommend
most people watch.
It is refreshing to see an already established view and have it turned upside down, much like with ‘The Woodsman’. It challenges our perception; can drug addicts be role models, can paedophiles be caring and truly regret their actions? It’s something which makes you think past the end of the film and opens up a variety or moral and ethical questions. Film exists as an art form and is around to not only entertain but to leave statements. Challenging a perception is one of the strongest statements to make and thus leaves a lasting impression; ultimately a good sign of a film.