I got into some trouble a few weeks ago when I criticized Game of Thrones for its very explicit scene of a brother and sister engaging in sexual intercourse. I said it was part of the coup de culture rocking the West, for which, I was called a prude, told I didn’t understand the plot, etc., even though I mentioned that incest can be a valid plot line. My point was that it shouldn’t be so vividly depicted.
Now, I read a major motion picture has thrilled the swells at Cannes, but sickened some with its clear incestuous overtones. From the Fox News story:
The film, which stars Antonio Banderas and budding actress Spanish actress Elena Anaya, focuses on a mad but brilliant surgeon (Banderas) who kidnaps a man who raped his daughter. The doctor’s daughter killed herself from the grief and it drives him to take very drastic measures. This is where it gets complicated and disturbing. Banderas then gives the rapist a sex change and transplants his deceased daughter’s face onto his body. He later has sex with the man he has brutally experimented on and turned into a woman...
A second [audience] exodus occurred [the first due to brutal rape scenes] when Banderas’ character had relations with his victim at the end of the film, when even some of the French, who have a reputation for a higher tolerance for disturbing themes than Americans, had had enough. “It was the fact that the victim was supposed to look like the doctor’s daughter. I couldn’t stop picturing the girl in the beginning of the movie when he was in bed with her, with him, later,” said filmgoer Marie-Elise Martin who left three-quarters of the way through the picture.
I know it wasn’t incest technically, but as the quoted person said, if he is having sex with a man redesigned to look like his daughter—and played by the same actress—it is too close for comfort (not to mention the other aspects described). And I won’t even go near the transsexual element.
The themes above (and a female slave plot line) thrilled at least one reviewer:
What I loved most about The Skin I Live In is the way it challenges sexuality (as ambiguous as that sounds). I can’t really talk about exactly how without ruining the plot, but Almodovar sets up sexuality one way then completely twists it later on. Not only does it fit with the story but it will unquestionably cause some moviegoers to end up uncomfortable and that’s exactly why I love it. I’ve never seen any filmmaker tackle these ideas so subtly yet still deliver a beautiful film filled with beautiful people that was satisfyingly entertaining throughout. Almodovar seems to have a knack for that kind of storytelling but truly knocks it out of the park this time.
Art and letters tend to reflect culture. The culture of the West, in my view, is growing increasingly nihilistic, misanthropic, and decadent. Consider movies that seriously asserted that humans deserve total annihilation. Examples: The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Happening. The organ trade in China depicted in comedic and self justifying terms by a purchaser, in Larry’s Kidney, to good reviews. Reviewers swooning over a book with explicit descriptions of intercourse between a chimp and a woman. The list could be long.
Art is usually a symptom, rarely a cause. We have a spiking fever. But not to worry: I’m just an uptight prude.