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#191944 - 11/19/07 08:52 PM Film - Mysterious Skin
CarnagedOntology Offline
New Here

Registered: 11/12/07
Posts: 13
Loc: California
Mysterious Skin

This film was horribly triggering, but it is an amazing film. I don't know how to explain it without sounding strange, but I love this movie. There were times in the film that I had to push stop and take time to cry. I relate to this story in more ways than one. It was as if it were torn out of the pages of my youth. What I admire most about this film is the truth behind the story. Only those who have experienced sexual trauma first hand, would truly understand the toll. I felt it was made for us. If you do not want to relive the pain, do not watch this film.

_________________________
"Living well is the best revenge."

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#191951 - 11/19/07 10:10 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: CarnagedOntology]
Jarrad Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 1071
Loc: arizona
it is a great movie. its based on a book. the movie is way better than the book tho.. and i dont ususally say that about books turned into movies.


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#192007 - 11/20/07 06:00 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: Jarrad]
GateKPR4 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/28/07
Posts: 955
Loc: North Carolina, USA
There is a trailer on youtube I watched last night. I could identify many of the looks in the child's eyes as well as the expressions on his face. I would like to watch the whole movie. May have a lot of triggers but it may also teach me something.

_________________________
I'm a normal person dealing with abnormal experiences.
The greatest discoveries we will find within ourselves.
Ricky
__m_ô¿ô_m__
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#192062 - 11/21/07 05:36 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: GateKPR4]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
*****Triggers*****

Guys,

I am writing a book on the way CSA of males is portrayed in world cinema, and the chapter on Mysterious Skin is one I have finished. Here it is, for those who are interested. The formatting has gone all kaflooey, of course, but never mind.

*****

41

Mysterious Skin



Overview


Director: Gregg Araki
Writers: Scott Heim (novel)
Gregg Araki (screenplay)
Company: Desperate Pictures
Release date: 2004
Country: USA, Netherlands
Language: English
Color: Color
Run time: 99 minutes
Certification: Argentina, 13; Australia, R; Brazil, 18; Canada, R (Alberta, British Columbia), 18A (Manitoba, Ontario), 16+ (Quebec), Finland, K18; Germany, 18; Ireland, 18; Italy, VM14; Netherlands, 16; New Zealand, R18; Portugal, M18; Singapore, R21; Sweden, 15; Switzerland, 16 (canton of Geneva), 16 (canton of Vaud); UK, 18; USA, NC-17, unrated (DVD).
Main cast:
Young Brian George Webster
Young Neil Chase Ellison
Neil McCormick Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Brian Lackey Brady Corbet
Coach Bill Sage
Eric Jeffrey Licon
Wendy Michelle Trachtenberg
Mrs McCormick Elisabeth Shue
Mrs Lackey Lisa Long
Mr Lackey Chris Mulkey


Synopsis

The film, based on the novel of the same title by Scott Heim, introduces us to two teenagers, Brian and Neil, living in or near Hutchinson, a small Kansas town and in fact Heim’s hometown. The two boys were members of the local Little League baseball team and were sexually abused by their coach at the age of 8. Their reactions to the abuse are very different. Brian has blocked out his memories; he recalls only that he was sitting on the bench as a baseball game was called because of rain, and then five hours later he was in the crawl space under his house with a nosebleed. But the attack changes his life. He becomes a shy, nervous, awkward boy who fears the dark, wets his bed, and has terrible nightmares of being touched and handled. His social skills are very limited and he is afraid to relate to the world around him. His developing sexual feelings horrify him, and he finds it impossible to date or relate to girls emotionally or sexually.

Neil, on the other hand, remembers everything. Continuing to think as the manipulated and betrayed child, he cherishes his memories of “Coach” and views their relationship as one in which he was special to and loved by an adult he respected and admired. Once deprived of that relationship he gradually comes to feel emotionally empty and unlovable and becomes rebellious and callously indifferent to those around him. Desperately lonely and yearning to find meaning in his life in a world that seems to offer him nothing, he begins to seek sexual contacts with adult men in an effort to recreate the relationship he had with Coach.

The turmoil shaping the lives of the two teenagers, who no longer know each other, takes them to emotional and dangerous extremes. Brian becomes fascinated by outer space and the idea of alien visits to earth. He meets an older woman with similar interests and becomes increasing convinced that abduction by aliens explains his blackouts and dreams. But this only brings him face to face with his inability to relate to the woman sexually, and his dreams become more intense and he begins to experience flashbacks. He feels there is another boy with him in the dreams, but he cannot identify him. Neil, meanwhile, still desperately seeking to use sex to regain his old feelings of belonging and worth, collapses emotionally and becomes a hustler proud of the fact that there is no customer in town whose needs he hasn’t serviced. The two boys experience the two extremes of the continuing impact of child abuse: Brian is tormented by his inability to remember, Neil by his inability to forget.

The two boys, each unaware of the other’s existence, both pursue answers to their questions in ways that will ultimately bring them together. Brian’s dreams of being touched by aliens begin to focus on a face he recognizes from the group photo of his Little League team. Having identified this boy as Neil, he begins to search for him, certain that he must know the truth. Neil, on the other hand, has gone to New York, where his life as a hustler exposes him to increasing levels of dehumanization, danger and violence. Brutally raped and beaten in one especially horrific incident, he discovers at last that the meaning for which he searches will never be found in prostitution. Allowing himself to feel his pain at last, and acknowledging the danger to which he has been exposing himself, he returns home for the Christmas holidays, knowing that Brian has been looking for him.

At the climax of the film the two boys meet on Christmas Eve and Neil immediately recognizes Brian as one of the other boys Coach had abused. Neil finally realizes that he was never special to Coach: the adult simply used him for his own gratification and as a prop to attract, reassure and confuse other boys. He reveals all to Brian, and the two, having guided each other to the truth at last, cling to each other in shocked silence as the film ends.


Critique

This film is a coming-of-age tale that some would have regarded as doubtful from the start. The director, Gregg Araki, had been responsible for a series of much-criticized gay productions, and his leading actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was best known before this film for his role as “Tommy” in the American sitcom “Third Rock from the Sun”. What emerges from this collaboration, however, is nothing short of a cinema classic.

Araki proves himself a director of deep compassion and sensitivity who is able to deal with the horrific dimensions and consequences of child abuse, directly and without compromises, while avoiding the temptation to vulgarize and cheapen his subject. But the show is entirely stolen by Gordon-Levitt, whose portrayal of Neil brings to cinema a harrowingly tragic and accurate image of the devastation a molested boy can suffer for years after the abuse ends. Brady Corbet also gives an excellent performance of the character of the vulnerable and sensitive Brian, and accurately conveys some sense of the confusion and apprehension that would be typical of an abused boy who has lost memories of what happened to him but still senses that something is terribly wrong.

The basic subject matter of the film – the cruel and treacherous abuse of two eight-year-old boys by a coach they should have been able to trust – is handled with sensitivity and compassion, and tension is allowed to build as the lives of the two youths develop and they come closer to discovery of the truth. Sexual scenes involving Neil range from caring to callous to brutal as his own journey of discovery draws to its climax. The supporting cast does an excellent job of filling in the social context and the overall effect is that of a film that conveys its characters as real people rather than as stereotypes. Araki deftly avoids, for example, the temptation to present the residents of Hutchinson as “hicks” and rednecks, while allowing the frustrated teenage characters to vent their own view of the place as a “piss-ant town”.


Survivor Issues

Mysterious Skin is an important film for its portrayal of two contrasting characters: the abused boys who differ so dramatically but are really very much the same. The theme of abuse by a trusted adult the boys know is well developed, and Neil’s emotional disintegration and acting out, as well as Brian’s withdrawal form the world and stunted social development, will ring true for many survivors. The abuse scenes convey with brutal accuracy the insidious way in which curious but innocent boys are lured by pedophiles using strategies of enticement and confusion. Coach’s home is full of games, snacks and fun things to do, and he seeks to put the boys at ease by bringing himself down to the emotional and social level of his victims.

The implicit ending message of the film is that the healing of both Brian and Neil requires that they come to terms with the truth of what really happened to them. The book upon which the film is based in fact ends on a negative note, but Araki abandons this tack and produces a genuinely compassionate conclusion of his own. As Neil holds the trembling and traumatized Brian on Christmas Eve, having revealed all to him, he silently ponders their situation:

"As we sat there I listened to the carollers and I wanted to tell Brian it was all over now and everything would be okay. But that was a lie. Plus I couldn’t speak anyway. I wished there was some way for us to go back and undo the past, but there wasn’t. There was nothing we could do. So I just stayed silent and tried to telepathically communicate how sorry I was about what had happened. I thought of all the grief and sadness and fucked-up suffering in the world, and it made me want to escape. I wished with all my heart we could just leave this world behind and rise like two angels in the night and magically…disappear."

The idea of the abused boy as an “angel” is a charged one: this is the way Coach referred to Neil when he was abusing him.

The film leaves ambiguous the question of Neil’s sexuality. He thinks he is gay, but it can as easily be argued that he is acting out the abuse scenario of his childhood, seeking to recover not only the feelings of closeness he had with Coach, but also a sense of control over his body and sexuality by re-enacting the abuse in settings where he – and not the abuser – dictates what happens and with whom. Neil’s sexual liaisons are always with customers, never with dates, and he does not, for example, respond to the interest that his gay friend Eric shows in him. In one scene the two return to Neil’s house after a night out drinking; Neil offers Eric marijuana to smoke and a porn video to which he can masturbate, but then lays down on his bed and goes to sleep. The character of Brian is lumbered a bit by the idea that he fears aliens had abducted him. A coping mechanism of this sort is not what one would expect from an abused boy, though graphic and even highly symbolic nightmares are common.

As in many films, this one fails to indicate that there is hope for survivors and prospect for recovery. As the film ends one is left with the impression that while Neil and Brian now at least have each other, they are doomed to their trauma and pain as continuing and defining features in their lives.


Use of Underage Actors

The characters of Neil and Brian as eight-year-olds were played by Chase Ellison, who was ten when he played the role of young Neil, and George Webster, who was nine when he played the role of young Brian. Ellison is an experienced child actor with many credits in television, while Webster appears to have been a newcomer.

The film’s producers stressed that the boys were not shown the complete>
_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#192067 - 11/21/07 06:18 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: roadrunner]
GateKPR4 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/28/07
Posts: 955
Loc: North Carolina, USA
Thank you for sharing this.
Although I was never brutally raped and my abuse was mild compared to what I have read here, I never the less still have the same emotional trauma from csa. I do remember almost all the abuse.
Even though we all have our own stories the one thing I am learning is that emotionally we all have many, many things in common.
love & light
Rick

_________________________
I'm a normal person dealing with abnormal experiences.
The greatest discoveries we will find within ourselves.
Ricky
__m_ô¿ô_m__
|| || || || || || |

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#192088 - 11/21/07 09:22 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: GateKPR4]
Jarrad Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 1071
Loc: arizona
hey larry,
really interesting. there is a great line that the neighborhood friend, not the girl but the gay one who finds neil's voice tape in his drawer. (cant remember his name.) he makes a comment about neil and i can't remember the quote but i think its like "i think you are gay because you aren't queer like me" or something. so that might be something else to look into. if i could remember the exact line it i could tell you more what i mean, but that line for me was important.


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#192145 - 11/21/07 08:19 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: Jarrad]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Jarrad,

That's Eric, a kind of neglected but important character in the film. It's interesting that he finds genuine friendship with the asexual Brian, but not with Neil. That strikes me as significant, but I haven't been able to figure out what Heim (or Araki if it's not in the book - I don't recall) is trying to get across with that one.

My feeling is that Eric is the one who's gay; sexually Neil is just an utterly lost and traumatized soul. Perhaps that's why I identified so strongly with Neil when I first saw the film; that was pretty much me when I was a teenager.

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#192148 - 11/21/07 08:27 PM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: roadrunner]
MemoryVault Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 693
Loc: NJ
I loved what the movie did with Eric. In the book, he's more troubled, but mainly just a narrator, a voice to tell Neil's story. He and Wendy never meet. In the movie, he's a genuinely loving character, the person Neil gets to protect, the only person Brian would ever spontaneously hug. Even Neil's and Brian's mothers like him, dyed 1990 hair and all!

I guess I also appreciate the movie's highlighting a healthy gay character, just so the audience doesn't assume that Neil's life is all that being gay could be.


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#192187 - 11/22/07 09:46 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: MemoryVault]
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
David,

In the movie there's even a question - at least for me - as to whether Neil is gay or just acting out. As I said in my comments, the film shows him as never dating, just servicing male customers. As a boy he does seem to be infatuated with Coach as a virile male symbol, but that never seems to come to anything. As Coach grooms him he doesn't have any idea what's going on.

You guys are making me think more about the function of the "Eric" character in the film. My thought for right now is that he's a vehicle for contrasting Neil and Brian, which just develops what you are saying, David. That is, Eric is a fun, caring and sensitive guy who would love to be Neil's boyfriend, but can never even approach the closed-down Neil emotionally. But with Brian, who isn't a sexual person in any way, he manages to connect; and as you say, he's the first person Brian ever hugs as a spontaneous act of affection.

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#192410 - 11/24/07 02:19 AM Re: Film - Mysterious Skin [Re: roadrunner]
Jarrad Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/27/06
Posts: 1071
Loc: arizona
larry, neil is gay. he's not just acting out. haha at least, to me he is. like you identified with him, i did too. but because i know i am gay, i just automatically make him gay too. (so i'll totally hate you forever if in your book you label him as soley "acting out."
\:\)


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