The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

It Was Good – I think – But I Don’t Want to See it Ever Again

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I’ve previously insisted on that Mike Leigh’s movies even though they’re showing a lot of misery, still manage to convey some kind of hope. In the midst of the darkness, there are cracks where the sunshine somehow finds its way in and I never felt truly miserable after seeing them.

This was until I saw Naked. I know that I’ve got a short memory, but as far as I can recall I’ve never ever seen a movie that has made me feel more miserable. I was prepared for rough environments, for poverty and for generally unhappy people, this being a Leigh movie. But I wasn’t prepared for the abundance of sexual abuse of women, seeing them hurt and violated over and over again, with one exception not even trying to resist it. I felt so nauseous and sickened by it that had to force myself to keep looking,

To be honest it’s not entirely easy to watch a movie where you can’t quite sympathize or identify with anyone, especially not the main character.  In the other Leigh movies I’ve seen, people have surely made bad choices, they’ve had their flaws, but I’ve always been able to find reasons to forgive them and if not love them, at least understand them on some level.

However, in Naked it’s pretty clear what kind of person we have to do with after the opening scene where he more or less rapes a girl in a dark alley. While we get some further glimpses into his way of thinking during the course of the film, I really can’t feel for him and I was almost happy as he got beaten up towards the end after all the pain he had caused others.

So what did I think of it? Was it a good movie? Well, I’m a little bit torn. I was so uncomfortable seeing it that I can’t say that I enjoyed it very much at all. Maybe it will grow with time though; I might just need a little bit more time to let it sink in.

Washington Post wrote in their review:

 “Don’t expect the watery grog of most movies. This is 90-proof, single-malt stuff. You sip it neat and you don’t handle heavy machinery afterward.”

I could also have added: “and you preferably shouldn’t drink it alone”.  I actually think that sharing the experience, debriefing it with a friend afterwards, could have helped me to handle the effects it had on me better, helping me not to feel altogether depressed and overwhelmed.

I realize though that even if I felt uncomfortable seeing it, it doesn’t mean that the movie hasn’t got qualities. I think Roger Ebert put it quite well:

This is a painful movie to watch. But it is also exhilarating, as all good movies are, because we are watching the director and actors venturing beyond any conventional idea of what a modern movie can be about. Here there is no plot, no characters to identify with, no hope. But there is care: The filmmakers care enough about these people to observe them very closely, to note how they look and sound and what they feel.”

I don’t rule out that I’d see even more qualities after seeing it a second time, but I doubt I could stomach going through this again.

Oh, and I can’t leave this film without mentioning the outstanding performance of David Thewlis. He got a number of awards, including Best Actor at the Cannes festival, and I understand why. You don’t see this kind of acting very often on the screen. It’s quite amazing and if you can stomach all the violence and misery, I think the movie is worth watching just because of him.

Naked (Leigh, UK, 1993) My rating: 4,5/5

PS: And now I need something quite different to flush out this movie from my system and restore my level of cheerfulness before I can take on another Mike Leigh movie (I’ve got several more to see in my box). Another view of Gregory’s Girl might do it. But if someone else has a different suggestion for movies that can take you out of the abyss I’ve fallen into after seeing Naked, I’ll listen carefully

Written by Jessica

July 20, 2011 at 11:41 am

Posted in Naked

2 Responses

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  1. […] Labyrinth For instance I recently found Naked by Mike Leigh quite remarkable, not like anything I’d seen before, but at the same time I had a horrible watching it and I […]

  2. […] The performance is spot on and made me associate to David Thewlis in Mike Leigh’s movie Naked. Like Thewlis, Oscarsson isn’t putting on the role as a costume. He’s transforming into […]


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