Patrick McGinlay's Internet Tendency

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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 his life."

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.


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