As a ten-year-old I was taken to see the Alfred Hitchcock film Marnie (1964) by Fran, who was the cook in the hotel where I grew up.
Fran and I had a lovely relationship and she kindly took me to the city and sometimes the cinema on some of her days off. If we went to the movies, we never missed the latest Bond film.
As Sean Connery was trying to break a bit from the Bond the mould and act under Hitchcock, it was sort of logical that Fran took me to see a movie starring the Scotsman, who had proven so successful in entertaining me before.
However, Marnie was a psychological thriller about a woman (Tippi Hedren) who marries Connery but cannot seem to love. She goes nuts at the sight of red and poor old Sean struggles to work out what’s wrong.
At film’s end he draws the truth. Under intense berating from her husband, Marnie recalls the childhood scene which has triggered her psychological problems. When seeing her mother being abused by a sailor, the little girl picks up a fire poker and bashes in the man’s head. Hitchcockian-inspired blood goes everywhere. Thus her fear of bright red.
Pretty harrowing stuff for a boy of 10 and you can see it hasn’t marked me at all.
Then there was The Mark, a 1961 black-and-white movie starring Stuart Whitman and Rod Steiger. I watched it on television when I was about 12.
Whitman was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of an imprisoned, intended child molester being treated by prison psychiatrist Steiger. It is revealed the man cannot cope with relationships with women his own age or older and concentrates on young girls. This has partially developed because his first lover was a nymphomaniac, who the man could not satisfy.
So, it was the woman’s fault?
It was nearly 60 years ago and the story line would not have passed the fairness test today but again it was a movie I watched too young and which disturbed me.
Thus I am wary of films with psychological and sexual mistreatment issues and it was with great reluctance that I saw Room (2015). Films about disturbing topics don’t appeal to me. I wouldn’t watch We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011).
When I first saw Mystic River (2003) and got the vibe in early scenes that a young boy was going to be kidnapped and sexually molested by two old men, I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. Fortunately, the film then fast forwarded to the boy as a man and the relationship he has/has not with the two boys, now grown, who left him behind. It’s one of director Clint Eastwood’s finest movies with knockout performances by Sean Penn and Timothy Robbins.
My son Dexter convinced me to see Room because he said the reviews were laudatory and that sometimes I have to watch things outside my comfort zone. I suppose that is what our Film Club is about: diversity of choice and sharing the choices of your fellow members?
So what happens when nearly everyone at the post-film pans the movie? Does one join in or try to give it some praise?
First, I didn’t find Room a bad movie, just a movie about something to which I usually shut my mind. Deprivation of liberty of innocents and male domination do not sit comfortably with me and most.
The viewer is led slowly to the reason a mother Joy (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay) are living trapped in what appears to be a square room. We discover it is the only world Jack has known, having been born here. His ‘father’ is ‘Old Nick’ a name he and his mother call the man who comes every night to sleep with her while Jack sleeps in the cupboard.
You feel trapped in the room with them and claustrophobia emerged for me at least. ‘Old Nick’ seems kindly in part but flies into rages if things don’t work out.
To keep herself sane or protect her son from the horror, Joy has invented a world for Jack that only exists inside ‘room’. To escape, she has to teach him of what’s outside.
Herein lies the metaphor of the movie because outside is much harder to cope with. Jack, who narrates the ‘I need to explain this to the audience’ parts, tells of things being hurried in the outside world whereas it was never so in ‘room’.
Ms Larson won an Oscar for best actress. She was good but nothing about her role blew me away.
Master Tremblay was astonishing. He is probably about 10 years old but his performance was one of the best I’ve seen – adult or child – in a movie.
Regardless, I was still disturbed and wonder why people want to see movies like this. Perhaps I am comfortable in my ‘room’ – a life enjoyed and still enjoying, shielding myself from all the nasty things and embracing that with which I am comfortable. Escapist? Perhaps. But singularly enjoyable, something Room was not.