Tag Archives: trigger warning

TIFF18: The Most Beautiful Couple

Okay, I give up.

This is the TIFF review I least want to write, but one I am most compelled to. My discomfort with the subject matter should be irrelevant; The Most Beautiful Couple is a good film that deserves to be recognized. So I’m going to claim this site as a safe space, I’m going to write this review in peace, but with the understanding that you should click away if you want to\need to.

Liv and Malte are indeed a beautiful couple. That’s well-established in the very first scene which finds them fucking on the beach while on vacation. It’s a secluded spot but they’ve nevertheless got some appreciative viewers in the form of some teenage boys. That’s how I thought of them, boys, until they forced themselves into Liv and Malte’s vacation home later that night in order to rob them. But you know and I know that no one would bother to make a movie about it had they stopped there.

The “boys”, and one in particular, force them to perform for them again, so they can MV5BYTc1YWQzYzktNjc1OC00ZTA2LWIyZWMtOWFmNmVkNzU2YzI4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDA5NjIzMg@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_masturbate. Where the beach scene felt fun and carefree and only a little naughty, the act of repeating it under these circumstances is a violation neither Liv nor Malte can bear. When they aren’t quite up to the task demanded of them, ringleader Sascha decides to take a more direct approach. He rapes Liv while Malte watches, hog-tied and bleeding. It’s cruel and agonizing.

Cut to: two years later. Liv (Luise Heyer) and Malte (Maximilian Bruckner) have lived up to the title. This most beautiful couple has managed to stay together despite living through a trauma that would tear most couples apart. They have done the work, complete therapy, and seem to have maintained a loving relationship. It’s remarkable and hopeful. Until one night Malte happens to run into Sascha (Leonard Kunz) while out for shawarma. Gut punch. We see the air leak out of him as this kid finishes up the fast food he’s sharing with his girlfriend. His girlfriend. He’s just a regular guy living in Matle’s own city and this reality is so deeply disturbing to Malte he becomes obsessed. He practically lives at the subway station until he catches sight of him again, and the follows him home.

For what purpose, exactly? What good can come of this? It feels like Malte has no plan and no concept that this is a bad guy who only looks harmless. And here he is, bringing him back into his life again. And into his wife’s life, too, without her knowledge or consent. This is only the beginning of a deep and downward spiral that can’t end well for anyone.

I was so mad at Malte for so much of the movie – how dare he endanger his life, or his wife’s? But I had to consciously shake myself out of this misdirected rage. Malte is a victim. He may be coping in ways I don’t approve of, but it’s easy to judge when you’re not the one who is broken inside. He is healing, he is coping, and it’s not coming out right, but really it’s a miracle he’s kept it together at all. No matter how frustrating his choices are, there’s only one bad guy in this scenario, and this is a good reminder of how easy it can be to lose track of that.

And that’s why I think this film is so interesting, intellectually. It forces you to confront your own fears. Who can watch this and not put themselves in the shoes of the blissfully vacationing couple? But we never know how we’ll react until we’re in that very situation, and let’s hope like hell we never are. So I need to withhold my judgement of a character who is simply doing his best and think about why I went there in the first place. Is it easier to blame ourselves, the victims, when something bad happens? Because if we can just do something different, make different choices than the victim, we can keep ourselves safe? Bad guys make us feel helpless, and helplessness is the worst feeling in the world, so we push it away by finding some blame, some small thing someone could or should have done differently. And we focus on that. Director Sven Taddicken rubs our noses in that falsehood, and though he’s brave to do it, this is not an easy movie to watch.

Advertisements

Slut or Nut: The Diary of a Rape Trial

Mandi Gray was raped. She is one of the very rare few to speak up, to pursue criminal charges, to undergo a brutalizing justice system process that seems built for the benefit of perpetrators, not victims. I want to call Ms. Gray strong and courageous for doing so, but I don’t want to imply that women who do not are not. I think Ms. Gray knows better than anyone why women choose to stay silent, or are silenced, and this documentary puts us squarely in her shoes, so we can understand it too.

Only 3 of 1000 sex assaults result in conviction. Most go unreported because even in the era of #metoo, women are categorically not believed. But for the small percentage who do bring an accusation to the police, one fifth will be dismissed as MV5BNzJiY2ZmMWItOGI4My00ZGVlLTljOWMtZGZjNjZhZjBiNjUyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzQ3MjI5NzM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,658,1000_AL_“unfounded” which seems to be a fancy word for the police not believing her, which is hard not to take personally when ‘unfounded’ is used exponentially more often in sex assault cases than for any other crime. If you’re a woman of colour, disabled, or a sex worker, your word is all but meaningless. But if you’re one of the small sliver of people not dissuaded yet, you may find, as Gray did, that your body is now a crime scene. A rape kit is a must for conviction, yet there aren’t enough rape kit nurses to go around. You’ll have to offer yourself, body and soul, as evidence, because for some reason it’s your responsibility to help catch the rapist. But the fun doesn’t stop there: next you’ll be revictimized in court in a discouraging, dehumanizing procedure that never grants any real justice because it’s the victim who seems to be on trial.

This is the reality in which we live, and there’s no dearth of documentaries, well-made, well-researched, passionate, rally-cry, stoke-the-fire documentaries, that point out the inadequacies of this oppressive system. And yet we need another. And another. Because as often as women have said it before, it’s clearly still not sunk in. The system is broken.

Kelly Showker puts together a documentary that doesn’t just plead for social change and justice, it shows us quite plainly just how badly it’s needed. Ms. Gray could be your roommate or your sister or your friend. Stand beside her as she relives the worst night of her life, followed by the worst year. This documentary doesn’t preach, because it doesn’t need to. It shows you the callous reality of a rape trial, and watching it, there’s really only one conclusion you can draw. Seek out this documentary. Watch it, share it, talk about it. Change only happens when we unite, and a documentary such as this has the power to make advocates of us all.

 

 

 

This documentary screens as part of the Hot Docs film festival; this review was first published at Cinema Axis.

 

 

 

 

Wind River

Cory is a seasoned tracker with the Fish and Wildlife service in Wind River Reservation. He hunts predators. But when he comes across the frozen body of a young woman in the snow, he gets conscripted by FBI agent Jane to help in her investigation.┬áThe cause of death hasn’t officially been listed as a homicide, but no one runs 6 miles barefoot into Wyoming’s snowy, sub-zero mountains unless she’s being chased by something REAL bad. Jane (Elizabeth Olsen) is suspicious, and Cory (Jeremy Renner) has some unresolved grief, so the two team up to uncover some very unsavoury things going on in this small community.

Avengers: Infinity War opens in theatres in just a couple of weeks. No, I haven’t randomly started writing a second review. It’s just that Sean and I have been cramming for the upcoming film by watching the Avengers back catalogue which means we’ve seen a lot of Olsen (known in the MCU as the Scarlet Witch) and Renner (Hawkeye) team up inside-movie-wind-river-renner-2-3-2cc2cc20-bc30-440c-88f6-1f5fdf320875an awful lot lately. Now here they are shivering the frigid scrub of one of the largest but least populated states in the country. Wind River Rez is served by a minuscule tribal police force – there are more Avengers than cops in Wind River. Well, that’s not saying as much as it used to, the Avengers continue to recruit to the point that they don’t all fit on the same poster anymore. But the Wind River cops you can count on one hand.

Anyway, Elizabeth Olsen has worn the wrong colour jacket in this one, so without her super powers, Jane’s restricted to good old fashioned detecting, and without much backup. Good thing Cory has no badge and no scruples – his methods are brutal, maybe, but the nature of the crimes here are so heinous they never seem out of bounds.

Writer-director Taylor Sheridan astonishes once again. His style, in many ways, is commendably economical. Every word and shot that makes it to the final cut is necessary but it never feels sparse. It just effectively delivers on the thrill inherent in the premise. The chill is bone-deep, it’s emotional, it’s felt not just seen. Sheridan wants you to experience both the snow and the silence the area is known for. Navigated by Renner’s casual competence, you’ll want to stick to this protagonist for shelter and protection. But there’s a psychological depth here so significant you’ll need snowshoes just to survive.

Yes, this is bleak stuff, but it’s also reality for the Indian tribes who live on and around Wind River. Every day, Indigenous women and girls go missing or are murdered and our law does very little about it. Sheridan paints a careful portrait of the power plays at work, and if bearing witness is the least we can do, then watch.