Gesa Helms added a post to the album close/open.
[this is from two edited FB posts]
19 mins ·
— Mysterious Skin (2004, dir. Gregg Araki) was entirely different to what i thought it was going to be: i thought it was going to be queer teenage angst and a bit of road kill (i obviously went with the upbeat film poster).
there is some incredible stuff contained in it, and in the narration of things. it is on the surface strictly chronological: the events are dated; there are two narrative voices, each clearly distinct from the other.
i don’t quite know how: maybe my own events in front of the screen account for my utter disorientation (i started watching over dinner, then paused to talk with A, then resumed) but i had no clue that Neil and Brian were at the same event. i also did not realise how Brian came to sit in his house’s basement with a nosebleed.
it was only when Brian went to meet the girl in a neighbouring town from TV who had more than 20 alien abductions, that i realised that maybe all alien abductions were trauma phantasmagorias of people being sexually abused. — in her case it was surely the father looming in the background.
the way the story splits apart from the event, or even how the event is disjointed already is incredible. it sets up two of the known and distinct responses to severe sexual trauma: one, where the abuse is enframed in a groomed relationships that marks the child as special, the story is told of an 8-year old boy who tells himself that he pursued the coach, was in love (sexually), and lost, after that summer, the biggest love of his life. we see in memory only his memories of joy, laughter and curiosity. it is only when Brian seeks out the boy from his dreams of alien abduction and the missing five hours that summer night that we see a photo of the minor league team of that year and a deeply deeply unhappy and withdrawn Neil, whom we hadn’t seen in his own memory narrations at all.
— the violence that enters Brian and Neil’s lives is entirely differently articulated: Neil becomes a prostitute from age 15 onwards in small town Kansas in the mid-1980s, the physical abuse he obtains by some of this punters doesn’t register until his friends point to the bruises on his body, genitals. For Brian it is nosebleeds and blackouts, a father ashamed of his weak son and a barely functioning self that makes it into early adulthood.
it is Neil’s friend Eric, left devastated by Neil’s departure to NYC, who then meets and befriends Brian. Eric found one night, when returning the pot Neil had offered (along with some VHS porn if he wanted to jerk off), the audio tapes the coach had made of Neil and him and understands. He also points to the baseball shoes that the aliens in Brian’s drawings wear. Brian has no clue but persists and insists, becomes slowly of this world, and then meets on Christmas Eve Neil. Neil takes him to the house, shows him places and begins to tell the story. it is no longer a story of infatuation of the event when the game was called off due to rain, Brian’s mother and father didn’t pick him up ,but instead the coach took him to his house with Neil.
This is one of the most astoundingly told stories of childhood sexual abuse. It is in the splitting of event and narratives, of agency and of unknowing that is so incredibly well done.
As the two boys never meet until the last scene, the impact of that abuse on both unfolds along two distinct trajectories.
How these are brought together and held in the final scene is incredible. For once the youtube comments are astounding. I am not sure I can watch the closing scene again but I want to watch the beginning again: how Gregg Araki allows the event to rupture narration, integrity of self for the two young boys and us watching.
The film is incredible as to how dissociation works, how ruptures emerge in narrative and memory, how support structures move into place to facilitate living on, how the noise in the background is never quite right, how easy it is to miss the noise though as what else could there be. It is that which moves me in the film and which is wonderfully captured and retold, held, shown.
I will never look at stories of alien abduction in quite the same light.
There is something incredibly inspiring in this movie: in being able to work with such material and to do so so tenderly and unflinching at the same time.
Gesa Helms (Christmas Eve 1991) is the clip with the final scene. — one of the boys believes he was abducted by aliens, and then he makes a friend and it becomes of this world. The final camera and narration is stunning, i almost didn’t make it though.Edit or delete this
Gesa Helms that scene is amazing in terms of the relationship between these two young men who had not met in ten years; the knowing and the courage and the tenderness that plays out in that living room (while both of them had told themselves entirely different stories of that summer when they were 8) is so well done. and then there are carol singers at the front door of this strange house, they start to sing and the camera moves further and further up above that sofa lit with a single light source, where the one with a black hole instead of a heart comforts the alien abductee.Edit or delete this