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BY JACOB ZHIVOV
AUGUST 8, 2005
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McGinlay's was given the opportunity to speak to director
Gregg Araki while he was in town for the Melbourne International Film
Festival to discuss his latest film Mysterious Skin. The film confronts
the serious topic of child molestation.
Even before the film was screened in Australia there
was already controversy over its content, and there are groups who
are trying to ban this movie. They claim that it will teach potential
sex offenders how to go about molesting children. Araki says, "The
movie would, if anything, dissuade a potential sex offender from molesting
children because this movie shows just how one event changes these
boys lives forever and really damages them in a kind of irreparable
way. This story is a really important and human story and I wanted
to bring it to a cinema audience."
A film like Mysterious Skin almost submerges the audience
in its characters' world, and at some screenings "people have
sat through the whole of the credits because of the way this film
portrays the effect on the boys. It's almost like they need to debrief
from it a little. I have a friend who's a psychologist who has told
me that this does portray almost exactly what he has seen happen to
people who have been molested."
Based on the novel by Scott Hein, Mysterious Skin tells
its story in separate chapters. Its story revolves around two teenagers,
Brian (Brady Corbet) and Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who as children
were molested by their baseball coach. Both experience different reactions
to the experience. Brian represses it, and begins to believe that
he was abducted by aliens, while Neil embraces what has happened and
begins to whore himself around the small town to any man who can pay
him. Brian is determined to find what happened to him and through
his search he comes to Neil. Together, they discover what really happened
to him. But why tell this tale in such a way?
"I think that's what I love about this story. If
it was just Brian's story, or just Neil's story, it wouldn't really
work the way it does, but because Brian is the yin to Neil's yang
the story works really well. The way they both react differently to
the same abuse shows how dangerous the abuse really is, and how it
can really affect the children involved."
The film is almost poetic in its portrayal of how the
two boys are affected by the same event. Brian who seems to have the
perfect loving family represses the experience and can't handle what
has happened to him while Neil takes it with a weird yet self destructive
sense of maturity. "I've always seen Brian as heterosexual, while
Neil realised he was gay from a young age, and the abuse changes their
perceptions. Brian becomes almost asexual in his way and falls into
this disillusion of being abducted by aliens while Neil convinces
himself that he was in love with the coach and it was the love of
Mysterious Skin does touch on the sensitive topic of
child molestation but in no way glorifies the act -- rather, it shows
the harsh reality of what can happen to the children involved.
MYSTERIOUS SKIN stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet,
Elisabeth Shue and Michelle Trachtenberg. It's rated R and runs 99
minutes. In cinemas August 18.