Archivo de la etiqueta: Antichrist

Grieving a lost one on TV shows

Grief. We’ve all experienced something in our lives that have made us feel pain, that has made us feel like is the end of the world and that our lives as we know it will never be the same, we’ve all have felt aimless and lost, we’ve all had grieved.

As pain and grief are the most common human emotions, is only suitable that TV and movies have bend over backwards along the way to portray their interpretations and representations around the subject, some more faithfully than others. But with a matter such as thorny as it is, most of them fell flat with their intents.

Movies as The Lovely Bones (2009)What Dreams May Come (1998) and Antichrist (2009), though, have found creative and over-the-top narratives (an after-death narration, a journey to the afterlife and a couple who recluse themselves into a cabin with devastating consequences, consecutively) that have successfully managed to shown us different ways of people going through  grief and loss whilst trying to understand how finite life is and how useless can be trying to find any type of sense out of it.

The same thing has happened throughout lots of TV shows, whilst Six Feet Under (2001-2005) found its bases around grief with a family that owns a funeral home, Pushing Daisies (2007-2008) constantly used paranormal tools within its narrative in order to explain the scope that a person can reach when is grieving.

These particular stories —especially those represented on television — have had meaning and resonance, not only because of their really well-thought arcs but for their attempt on describing the feelings behind someone’s loss. Grief is not beautiful or contemplative, but rather difficult and hard to watch.

Nowadays, there are three shows that are dealing with this subject in a thought-provoking manner, that not also have maintained its focus on their characters but also in the many many ways they represent grief: Netflix’s Maniac, Facebook Watch very first show, Sorry For Your Loss and Showtime’s Kidding.

Maniac tells us the story of Owen (Jonah Hill) and Annie (Emma Stone) two individuals who participate on a scientific trial that is trying to find a medicine that would help people to overcome their mental issues without going through therapy.

Annie is a stubborn pill addict who has not yet dealt with her sister Ellie’s (Julia Garner) death and is constantly inducing herself into hallucinations trips —with the help of one of the trial’s pill— that would help her to relieve that particular moment of her life. She doesn’t want to forget her sister, even if that means going back to experience, again and again, the worst day of her life.

Sorry For Your Loss, on the other hand, has Leigh (Elizabeth Olsen) a woman who has recently lost her husband Matt (Mamoudou Athie) on a jogging accident and, instead of confronting that very idea, she prefers to recuse herself on her mother’s home, waiting for everything to go away.

KIdding introduces us to Jeff (Jim Carrey) a man who’s trying to deal with his son Will’s (Cole Allen) demise by using his children’s TV show as an excuse to teach kids some knowledge about grief and loss, all of this whilst looking for ways to get back into his ex-wife’s life.

As we can see, these characters are hurting in ways we can’t even process, but thanks to the magic of TV we can try to understand it.

What really struck me the most, and stuck around my head for a long time, was the different approaches these shows used to portray grief. In Maniac‘s case, grief is something that unites people and keeps them together. In this world, the only thing that Annie and Owen share is pain, and that’s the reason why in most of their induced hallucinations they keep bumping into each other, because they understand what they have been through and recognise each other in the other one.

This show ‘s constant use of colourful hallucinations is its way to represent all the lies that we tell everybody and, especially, to each us when we are suffering. When we’re grieving we prefer to tell ourselves a different kind of story, one that does not involve confrontation at all, or any type of contact with reality, whatsoever; but that changes when someone who has been through something similar finds a way to enter our lives.

One of Maniac‘s biggest statements is that human bonds are crucial and really necessary in order to reach some kind of personal development, and they are especially strong when they are used to help cure one another. Grief is hard, yes, but is also something you can live with when you have someone by your side that really understands you.

In Sorry For Your Loss, grief is something we need to live in order to face our worst fears. Leigh lived constantly in fear throughout all her marriage because of her husband’s depression. Fear of not understanding anything related to his mental disease and the scope of it within their relationship. Fear of not being as supportive as he needs her to be because of her own misunderstanding about depression. Fear of being left alone.

But Leigh is not alone, she has he a supporting mother, Amy (Janet McTeer), and her unconditional sister, Jules (Kelly Marie Tran), that are there for her. Sorry For Your Loss, like Maniac, tries to make a case about human connection and loss, but, rather than focusing on the idea that strength comes from the similarities you share with your loved ones, it states it on their differences.

Amy and Jules do share lovely times with Leigh as they support her with her grieving in any kind of way she requires them to, but they also push her to confront her reality and the fears she had have since her husband’s death.

If anything of this hasn’t happened, Leigh will probably have learned to deal with it but on a totally different pace and without acknowledging it as fears, but rather as minor inconveniences along the way.

Losing someone is really painful, but what Sorry For Your Loss is trying to tell us is that grief is also necessary to help us overcome our greatest fears. Without any type of confrontation, we would never be able to grow until we deal with our reality and the ideas we create in order to cope with it.

Kidding has its novelty on the way it portrays Jeff. He is a deeply wounded character, one that not only had to go through the death of one of his children but also by struggling to connect with his wife afterwards. Unlike Maniac and Sorry For Your Loss, that thrive on the importance of grief as a necessity for bonding and connection, this show isolates its grieving characters.

In this show, grief is an incredible opportunity to learn and teach in return. Jeff, being a host of a children show, decides to use its spotlight to shine a light on different issues that a regular network wouldn’t consider children-friendly, like death, loss and heartache. Granted, he does that to avoid thinking about his own suffering while, and unknowingly, he learns another way to grieve: talking about it with total strangers.

As we can see, grief can represent a lot of different things, a bond between individuals, a confrontational tool or even a teaching moment. If there’s something that televisión — and especially these TV shows—  has taught us is that what really matters when we have to deal with grief is not how we cope with it, but rather how we chose to live with it while it lasts.

 

Fading to black: Lars Von Trier and gender politics.

As I have mentioned before, I really like to watch movies and TV Shows that are capable of making me feel uncomfortable —and, sometimes, even disturbed—not only for the cringeworthy moments, but for their capacity to confront and transform the paradigms with which I live my life by. Lars Von Trier’s films could perfectly sum up all of this.

I’m sure you have all watched at least one of his movies, and I’m also sure we can all agree on one thing: Lars Von Trier’s movies are nothing but average.

I’m not here to talk you into watching some of the best films of his wide and impressive career (something you should definitely do) or to tell you he is one of the most clever minds that the modern cinema has and will ever have (he really is), but to rather talk about something more relevant, and significant, to the times we’re living in: his gender politics.

If there’s something this director is really good at is portraying accurate depictions of what is like to be a woman in our current society, what her place is and how difficult her relationship with the men around her could be.

Lars Von Trier depicts his women like individuals without a voice, without a place to belong and a body to own. These women are often the caretakers, the ones that are always giving everything without expecting anything back, the ones that put everyone else’s needs before theirs. These women are stripped of any type of agency and decisions of their own and are constantly taken for granted.

Men, on the other hand, are the ones deciding upon women’s lives, decisions and bodies. The ones taking the spaces from them, the ones that are constantly putting women down by being condescending and unapproachable. These are the men that think they deserve everything they want, specially when a woman is involved. It’s no surprise that all of Lars Von Trier’s women end up on the verge.

The director has a keen eye to portray hopeless mothers. These individuals are portrayed as both completely vulnerable and always subjected to the men around them. They are women devoted to look after their children and to keep them safe from the dangers of the world.

Selma (Björk), in Dancer In The Dark, is the embodiment of this. She is an immigrant single mother that lives in the backyard of Bill (David Morse), a well-known policeman of a small town of the U.S who would do anything to please his wife, even if it means to steal money from his tenant.

Selma’s otherness is both the cause of her demise and her reason to be happy. She has no place to live, but the shed of Bill. She’s also going blind and lives with a constant guilt over her son’s possible blindness too. Bill takes advantage of this situation by immediately robbing her and putting her in a difficult position; leaving her with no other solution but to kill him.

Selma’s worst fear is to lose her child, to live in a world where his son’s childhood could be instantly robbed from him only because she has a hereditary illness. Selma’s entire life purpose is to procure her son’s health, even if it costs her her life.

So, when she’s thrown into jail, she’s not only becoming another faceless victim, she is also thrusted into a system unable to defend her. A system led by men,  that has control over her body and her freedom. A corrupt system that eventually ends up killing her and her spirit, without hesitation.

Charlotte Gainsbourg also depicted this type of mother on two Von Trier movies: Antichrist and Melancholia. This two women share the same fear of losing a child that Selma has. The difference between them resides on the story.  The woman named “She” loses her son at the beginning of the former and Claire at the end of the latter.

Both woman also have indifferent husbands who thinks that money and complaisance are the best way to be there for their wives in order to help them go through the difficult times. “He” (Willem Dafoe) is a psychologist reluctant to feel any sort of empathy towards his wife and his mourning process over the death of their child. John (Kiefer Sutherland) , on the other hand, is a scientist already fed up by her wife Claire and her “sentimentalism”.

These two men are completely certain that their wives would, and should, process their feelings the same way they do. They think they know and understand them perfectly well, but, in reality, they are just thinking about themselves. They’re not listening to them. In fact, they constantly find ways to silence them.

Dogville‘s Grace (Nicole Kidman) not only is left without a place to belong or live, but she’s also left without any will to go on with her life the very moment she arrives to the fictional town, named Dogville, looking for a place to hide from the gangsters that are after her. In there, the villagers find bizarre ways to mock her, silence her and arbitrary situations to justify the means of owning her body.

What’s really interesting of this movie is not only the raw depiction of humanity that Von Trier portrays accurately, but also the poignant point of view of a woman that is on the verge. Grace reaches a point were she has nothing left to loose. So, she orders the gangsters that are after her, to kill all the people on the town, even the children.

Yes, Lars Von Trier’s women can be selfless caretakers, but they also are human. And, as human beings, when they feel threatened, they will retaliate. Sadly, these personal rebellions will only appear when a breaking point is reached. Lars Von Trier depicts perfectly the way women are raised nowadays, as mute individuals that will not, and should not, raise their voice against anything.

Notwithstanding, Selma’s spends her last minutes alive by singing a song as an act of rebellion against the system that is in charge of breaking her. Claire finds a way to calm her child minutes before the world’s end as a way of retalliation against her fear of letting him down. In Antichrist, She finds a way to mutilate the genitals of her husband as a way to emancipate and break free from the box He put her into.

But, as we will learn from this movies, acting out will always bring consequences to the women involved. Something that Von Trier perfectly sums up on Nymphomaniac. a film where Joe (another wonderful acting piece by Charlotte Gainsbourg) goes against all that standards that the women before her had to live upon.

Joe is a fearless woman who is trying to understand who she is through sex. She is very confident about her sexuality and very conscious of her body. She refuses other men’s advances whenever she wants to whilst she doesn’t put up with them trying to control her body. She, eventually, will learn that society will not tolerate rogue women prancing around with their moral values.

By the end of the movie, Joe will be punished for her actions and for standing against a society more concerned about her behaving than to actually listen to her. Joe will reach for a gun in order to protect herself against a man (Stellan Skarsgard) who wants to control her body, and we will be left with nothing but a fade to black and an uncertainty around Joe’s life. Like all the other women in real life who are brave enough to stand against the very system who is always trying to break them but they keep disappearing.