sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

January 13, 2009

the price of a happy ending
posted by soe 2:58 am

Slumdog Millionaire won the Golden Globe for best drama last night. Ten days earlier I walked out of the theater 30 minutes into it.

It wasn’t that it was bad. Far from it. It was well-portrayed. It was gritty. It was intense. It felt real.

And it was horrifying.

For anyone considering seeing it, know that the “life-affirming,” “feel-good” ending is preceded by scenes of police torture, desperate poverty, religiously incited mass murder, child abuse, and cruelty. Twenty minutes in, I was weeping desperately. Fifteen minutes later when the scene turned to child mutilation, I bolted.

Rudi and Sarah assured me when they emerged 90 minutes later that I’d sat through the worst of it and that it really did get much better. They loved it.

To me, it doesn’t matter how much beauty or love comes through by the end; if I have to live through all that horror, it’s not worth it to me.

Coworkers who’ve seen the movie agree with Rudi and Sarah (and the Hollywood Foreign Press) in that the film really does leave you feeling joyful at its conclusion. I just can’t see how. It’s bothered me all afternoon. Rudi and I were just talking about it and I asked him why he thought the movie so positive.

It was that the main character had every opportunity to go wrong, every excuse to take a pass, and he didn’t, Rudi explained. He stayed true to himself…

It’s not enough.

It’s not enough for me to sit through the horror and the ugliness and the cruelty that people showed to and enacted upon one another in the part of the movie that I saw. Yes, intellectually I know that that’s an accurate portrayal of far too many people’s real life existence. That they live with disease and filth and hunger and corruption and torture and inhumane and degrading treatment. But I can’t see it portrayed before me. Or read it. Because if I do, then I have to accept it. And if I accept it then I either have to do something about it — really DO something — or I am complicit in its continuation. I admit that it’s cowardly. But it’s also self-preserving.

Some people can separate themselves from what they see on the screen and what they read. I am not one of those people. If it’s based in reality, it becomes part of me. I CANNOT forget. It eats away at me. I find myself less than after encountering it.

When I was a little girl, my dad used to subscribe to Time, which he used to leave in the bathroom. Being precocious, I would read it. Some of it didn’t interest me. Some, I assume, went over my head. But some of it went into it and got stuck there.

The discussion of capital punishment, for instance.

I can still remember the description of what happens to someone sentenced to the electric chair. It haunts me.

And that was back in 1983…

I am no better at filtering out the bad today than I was when I was eight. I can’t compartmentalize. I have no protective shell. The sadness of that reality seeps into me in some psychological osmosis, sucking the joy out of my soul in exchange. I shut down in order not to lose myself.

Even writing this — the amount of thinking about the movie and the magazine article that is required to write a blog post — is physically painful. I actually feel nauseated pulling these things to the front of my mind.

So I try to avoid putting myself into situations where that all that can happen. And when I find myself in one, I leave.

I’ve no doubt that Slumdog Millionaire deserves its accolades and its success. But the price of its happy ending is too high for me to pay.

Category: arts. There is/are 6 Comments.

I’m sorry, you got this from me.

Comment by Mum 01.13.09 @ 10:33 am

It seems to me that the person who knows when to get up and leave and avoid depictions of pain and suffering are smart. You may have inherited the trait from your Mom, but good for both of you for taking the right action.

Comment by DOD 01.13.09 @ 12:31 pm

You’re smart for recognizing this. I always think I can handle that realistic violence and then end up having nightmares forever from it.

Comment by jenn 01.13.09 @ 8:31 pm

Thanks for the positive words today. I don’t know why I was so bothered by this yesterday, but I really was. Writing this post helped.

Comment by soe 01.13.09 @ 11:24 pm

I haven’t seen the movie, or its trailers, but from what you’ve said, I’ll stay far away from it. As good as a movie can be, if it is violent or depicts the worst of human behavior, I won’t sleep at night after seeing it. You’ve articulated this so much more eloquently than I could, and I agree 100%

Comment by Debby 01.16.09 @ 1:22 am

Thanks, Debby. I feel bad sometimes because I miss out on so many great films, but they just take such a toll on me. I don’t think Rudi believed that until we saw The English Patient together.

Comment by soe 01.16.09 @ 2:25 pm