Mysterious Skin (2004)

mysterious skin review

Mysterious Skin (2004) Directed by Gregg Araki

The admirable veracity of Gregg Araki’s traumatic and gut-wrenching film is a gritty poem about the perpetual grief and chronic melancholy of two young men lost, one in the bewilderment of fragmented memories and the other in a self-destructive delirium due to harrowing childhood experiences that lacerated them in soul and body until bloody eternity. Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an uninhibited young man who sleeps with men in exchange for money, Brian (Brady Corbet) is a meek and lonely young man obsessed with UFOs to the point of believing he was abducted by one as a child. Araki’s formalist narrative juxtaposes Brian’s hazy memories with Neil’s vivid reminiscences in a complex therapeutic mosaic that reveals the two characters as estranged as they are close: physically distant but metaphysically contiguous.

Most of the time the experience in the audiovisual space of these characters feels discontinuous, like a jigsaw puzzle missing key pieces; that, cleverly emulates the intricate space-time of remembrances by transferring the storytelling more into an introspective realm from the confusion of hindsight. It is powerfully moving and is easily the most enlightening dissertation on child sexual abuse I have seen. It is uncomfortable in its more visceral sections, yet necessary to give credence to its grim themes accompanied by heavy doses of Dream Pop. Joseph Gordon-Levitt embodies the suffering and existential tribulations with severe intensity and Brady Corbet – although more subtle – also exposes the magnitudes of the sorrow they both experience with profuse honesty. One would think that after having endured a film where we descriptively witness the destruction of the innocence and soul of two children, catharsis would be present… I do not believe that their overwhelmingly sad finale is a purification of their feelings in the most Aristotelian sense of the word, that would be chimerical, rather I believe that its conclusion is a brutal nihilistic specification of an incurable trauma, in the most Nietzschean sense of the word.

Matteo Bedon
About Author

When I'm not watching films, I'm writing about them.
Editor and Official Film Critic at Celluloid Dimension

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