Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SIFF #8 - Twin/trans-genderism (and chickening out on cannibalism)

OK. I chickened out. I kept thinking about the comment from an unsuspecting stranger that Grimm Love (Rohtenburg) was a snuff film, and it gave me the heebie-jeebies. I'm one who has told many people recently that as I get older, I just don't like violence in films or TV. Do we HAVE to see serial killers glorified? Do we HAVE to see pretty young people brutalized on film for our entertainment? I reached this revelation after watching a string of previews for slasher films just before last summer's The Descent. Maybe I need beasties and aliens in order to tolerate violence. When it is human-on-human violence, I'm just not feeling the love any more.

So why did I grab a ticket for Grimm Love, a fictionalized film based on the (in)famous German cannibal case from a couple years ago? I don't know... curiosity about one of the few true taboos of society... heck, who hasn't been morbidly fascinated by the Donner Party, or the folks from Alive? Oh, and Felicity (aka Keri Russell) is in it. I (heart) Felicity!

I managed to stay half an hour, full of dread. The film was shot in murky light, lending it a constantly dusky feel, combined with flashbacks done in a 70s "home movie" style (replete with the film bleaching in the corners at time). Interesting idea, but the whole thing was so literally... dark. Keri Russell (with heavily kohl-lined eyes and disheveled hair) plays an American grad student doing research in Germany on the vaguely fictionalized cannibal case. Over dinner (meat?) she says to her friends, "Oh, and by the way, did you know that they filmed the whole thing? Only the police have seen the film... but, boy howdy! I'm gonna get my hands on it by the end of the film!" I knew I was in trouble. I was feeling queasy already. Oliver (Thomas Kretschmann), the eater, lives as an adult with his crazy mom whom I feared would be Course One (I didn't stay around to find out). Simon (Thomas Huber) has a nice boyfriend, but sneaks looks online at severed thumbs. Hm. There was a flashback to lonely young Oliver wearing embarrassing traditional German suspenders, then making surprising friends with a gloomy-looking kid. When the kid shows him the butcher's barn at the local farm, then with scary editing bares his pointy teeth... well... I calmly put my stuff back in my backpack, picked up my sweatshirt and iced latte, and fled the theater. Sorry, I just couldn't do it.

[NOTE TO READERS: If you managed to sit through all of Grimm Love, what did you think? Good? Bad? Exploitive with no redeeming qualities? Please post a comment... I'm very curious!]

Since I had a couple of hours to waste, I thought about gentle woodland creatures and soft, fluffy kittens to clear my mind, plus browsed the local record store and book store. I topped off the nice break with a delicious bowl of pho, which looked NOT like a bowl of intestines with slices of human meat stewing in the broth... See? I didn't have that image in my head because I walked out early! I felt quite pro-active and pleased with myself! Plus I got the famous and delicious Than Brothers cream puff to finish off my fast-n-cheap meal!

My second film of the evening was the intriguing documentary Red Without Blue (7/8) about twins, born as boys--but one of them comes out as transgendered later in life. The intimate doc follows three years in the life of Mark and his twin Alex... but when we meet Alex, the young man now passes as Clair, a young woman. Mark has his own issues to deal with: he is gay, but people wonder if he is just not admitting his own transgenderism because of his biological and emotional closeness with Clair. Their divorced parents wonder how such perfect kids grew up so troubled, first getting into drugs, then sex with a predatory older teen, and finally a suicide attempt that sent them off to separate boarding schools with no contact for two years.

What is impressive about the film is that the storyline does not go in expected places, that the "characters" actually evolve in unexpected ways. And through the whole thing, they all open up with such painful honesty on screen. I was quite impressed at the openness of the family (as was the rest of the audience), and I'm sure I'm not the only one to express appreciation for sharing their story. In fact, at the screening I attended, one member of the audience stood up and announce that he was a twin, and a trans male, and this is (unsurprisingly) the first time ever, EVER he had seen that there were others with a story similar to his. And THAT is one of the things I love about film festivals!

No comments: