Friday, February 12, 2010

Poison: Construction Of A Moral Scaffolding

In her distinguished Sight & Sound essay, B. Ruby Rich (1992) described the early times of the New Queer Cinema movement as a “watershed” year for independent gay and lesbian filmmaking that dealt openly and even aggressively with queer culture, politics, and identity. It also paved the way to a transformative period of queer film spectatorship. This movement was characterized as a part of the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was known to embody an accelerated cultural and political evolution of queer identity brought on by that time’s challenges to advocate for a peaceful and productive gay future. The films during this time were considered to be radical in form. They were also very much aggressive in their espousal of sexual identities in their attempt to not just challenge the heteronormative status quo that stigmatized and marginalized some forms of sexuality, but also to the positive promotion of gay and lesbian images juxtaposed by AIDS crisis and the conservative political wave both in the United States and in the UK.

It is in this context that a seemingly inconspicuous art house film directed by Todd Haynes, Poison (1991), surprisingly found itself in the center of a political controversy starting from the time it was being filmed up until its wide release. Despite the fact that Posion was only screened in the art house circuit and was never played in mainstream cinemas, it still stirred the US Senate, dominantly Republican then, into an uproar. It started when Jessie Helms threw a public fit upon knowing that the film was partly funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)—an independent agency of the federal government that offers support and finances for projects exhibiting artistic superiority and excellence. In the middle of the clamor was Poison’s perceived theme and content. The conservatives claimed that aside from its confrontational, disturbing, enigmatic, visceral and harsh tone, Poison contained “explicit porno scenes of homosexuals involved in anal sex”, and even called for the resignation of Frohnmayer, NEA’s chairman during that time. Surprisingly, NEA stood against the Right and asserted that there was no way that violence was glorified in the film, and that Poison was neither prurient nor obscene. But in the end, the imperative issues in this controversy that is detrimental for the ultimate salvation of the film was Posion’s real content—on what it was really trying to communicate to its viewers, and if there was indeed a necessity to use the techniques Haynes incorporated in the film in the effectiveness of conveying his messages.

During the process of resolving these issues, it is inevitable that we get to unveil the motivation behind Haynes’ three multi-themed vignettes told in distinctly different cinematic styles, at the same time using the technique of cross-cutting one story to another. “Hero” is a mockumentary about Richie Beacon, in an attempt to understand what really happened the night he shot his father. It later turned out that it is a story of abuse, maltreatment, domestic violence and infidelity. “Horror” is a black and white, 50’s style monster movie about Dr. Thomas Graves in his quest for medical history. Yet, upon ingesting the liquefied sex drive, he became a contagious leprous beast. He lost himself in the process, making this story a slightly concealed AIDS metaphor linked with alienation and the darker side of human sexuality. Lastly, “Homo” deals with homosexuality—was even explicitly pointed out in the beginning, and is about john Broom and his quest to retrieve a certain bad memory involving Bolton. This vignette was told in a contrast of alternate dark, prison setting and a bright “counterfeit world of men among men” situation. And as the two places overlap, we encounter violence, rape, and death.

Living with AIDS, alienation, juvenile delinquency, homoerocticism, domestic violence, domination, the darker side of human sexuality, abuse and repression shown in a surrealist manner—that is to free one’s imagination and own understanding by producing a creative process free of conscious control, is a mash-up between Haynes’s trademark and commended manner of film-making and Jean Genet’s literary and controversial masterpieces.

Todd Haynes, now established as a nonconformist director, is capable of dealing with more than his New Queer Cinema tag might cover. As seen from his works Safe (1995), Velvet Goldmine (1998) Far From Heaven (2002), and I’m Not There (2007), there is more to him than only being considered as one of the proponents of the New Queer Cinema by successfully addressing the ineffable. Haynes is also proficient in making us consciously aware of our beliefs through his films, and then challenges its viewers to rethink them and consider others, as was in Poison. One has to think profoundly, albeit carefully, to arrive at the notion that the poison Haynes was portraying in this film is society itself—that we think that there is only one kind of misery, that of Dr. Graves, when in fact we live in a world that is packed with despair. And in that denial, as was exemplified in Richie’s story, we reject other beliefs and cram ourselves inside a tight box. All it should take was to stand up for your self, and break away from the society, just like the way Richie’s mother believed that her son DID fly away after killing his father, the way Dr. Graves faced the outrageous crowd and jumped off to kill himself, and how John Broom fought to retrieve his unpleasant memories with Bolton and make him experience things that Bolton deserved. At the same time, Haynes’s surrealist tendencies are embodied in the film. There is an opportunity through which he gives his viewers enough time to distance themselves from his works to make room for their imagination and understanding. This makes his movies, and ultimately Poison, an unassuming and unimposing, yet a powerful tool for political socialization. Through Poison, we can see Haynes unconventional method of film-making as initially disconcerting and enigmatic. But ultimately his techniques are as unusual as the moral and social issues he tried to cover.

Jean Genet, on the other hand, whose works had inspired this film, is a celebrated French writer mostly associated with Cocteau, Sartre, Picasso and the existentialist movement. Considered as a deliberate outsider, he was in and out of prison due to series of arrest for theft, use of false papers, vagabondage and lewd acts. Genet is also very much explicit and provocative in his portrayal of homosexuality and delinquency that his works Our Lady of Flowers (1943), The Miracle of the Rose (1946) and The Thief’s Journal (1949), with which Poison was based, are considered autobiographical. He can be considered as a “been there, done that” kind of author, and that infuses distinctiveness on his works. In fact, one can associate Genet with the character of John Bloom in “Homo”—a habitual thief and criminal. Both of their lives can be summarized by a line said by John in the movie: “Prison life is not new to me. I’d live in them all my life. In submitting to prison life, embracing it, I could reject the world that had rejected me.” And that’s how Genet viewed himself, a rejection of the society, experiencing an exile from it, yet such action was done on purpose, deliberately. It is in this process of distanciation that he got to see the societal order that bounds most of the people, and makes sense to it. As in Poison, most of the characters are bound by the order, like the townspeople that rejected Richie and Dr. Graves, without realizing the reason as to why they do so.

Poison, thus, with its out of the usual run of themes and techniques, is a result of the interplay between Haynes’s nonconforming cinematography and Genet’s profound social and moral exposure. It is in this combination that the film unraveled the manner by which power and transgression in a society can shake its deeply rooted foundations. Power relations in a family can be carried, though sometimes reversed, out in the community, and such will forever be under the approval of everyone. Transgression, therefore, is defined in relation to what the society perceives as wrong, and, in their judgment, SHOULD BE severely punished. Poison also dealt with the peculiar side of human sexuality and its consequences. As the film had shown, it may lead to societal rejection, and can even be detrimental and fatal to others. Disloyalty also dictated the course of the “Hero”, that I get a sense of the fact that if not for his mother’s doings, Richie wouldn’t be able to commit patricide. Consequently, the real murderer might also be violence, domination. Perception also played a huge role in “Horror”, as it is in real life. “Why do they matter?” Nancy had asked. Indeed, it is the perception of the people that rejected and ultimately drove Dr. Graves to his threshold. Power, transgression, disloyalty, violence, perception—all of these can drive someone into a counterfeit life that will haunt us for the rest of our lives. Just like in “Homo”, John sees two correctional institutions as different from one another: one as a place where he can live a happy life with his mate, another as place full of charade and twisted beliefs that corrupted him into doing something grave. With that, Posion can be considered as an accurate reflection of the inaccuracy of life in general—sometimes out of sequence, out of line, stifling, disturbing, and more often than not not making any sense to us. But all it takes is a step back for us to realize its deeper meaning.



G. Benatar, “Film Flap: NEA Takes ‘Poison’”, Entertainment Weekly, Issue 61, April 1991.

M. Bullock, “Treasures of the earth and screen: Todd Haynes’s film Velvet Goldmine (A Critical Essay”, Discourse, September 2002.

B. Ruby Rich, “New Queer Cinema”, Sight and Sound, Vol. 2, Issue 5, September 1992.

Poison is a film that can provide viewers a taste of a different type of movie. It is the first feature film of Director Todd Haynes, considered to be the leader of the New Queer Cinema Movement. Released in 1991, it presents three different stories: the stories of a young boy who killed his father, a doctor who turned into a contagious monster after a laboratory accident and a gay prisoner’s admiration towards another prisoner. This movie is inspired by the works of French writer Jean Genet. It received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) that enabled the director to take the movie in his preferred path without worrying about commercial studios interests. Aside from this, the movie received the Grand Jury Award in the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

However, not everyone is in favour with the supports and acknowledgements that the film got. Some people argued that it is not right for the NEA to grant funding to a film that is pornographic and have the potential of corrupting the mind of its viewers. There were even cases of movie goers walking out from the theatre because they cannot stand the ‘indecent’ scenes in the film. And these kinds of reactions might not be surprising. The movie was released at the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic. The fear of everyone to the disease causes some conservative beliefs to be reinforced and some modern ideas to be reconsidered. Aside from these, the film offered compelling stories about social injustice, gender stereotypes and most importantly, morality.

According to the teachings of Hobbes, morality is relative. Different people might be correct in their beliefs for beliefs are based on each one’s interpretation of things. What might be good for someone might be bad for you. So in order for people to co-exist, there should be a moral agreement amongst them. And this agreement is what we know today as laws. These written or sometimes, unwritten laws have the capability to restrict human action. For once agreement is reached, everyone is compelled to follow no matter how unjust or unreasonable this might be for someone.

And some of the consequences of these agreed-upon laws were presented in this film. In ‘Hero’, the story of Richard Beacon was shown. He is a young boy who killed his father after he saw him beating his mother. According to his mother, after the incident the boy went out of the window and just disappeared. In the ‘documentary’, the truth about what happened was investigated by interviewing the neighbors, teachers and schoolmates of the boy. From their testimonials, we can see how they view a young boy like him. Their views about Richard Beacon were influenced by how the society thinks a young boy should behave. They pilloried him as a queer boy for he has done something wrong and behaved immorally.

The next story ‘Horror’ on the other hand is about Dr. Thomas Graves who, ever since he’s a child, possessed the hunger for scientific knowledge. He is a hormone specialist highly interested in finding the hormones that causes sex drives. But due to a distraction (Dr. Nancy Olsen) in his laboratory, he accidentally drank the solution on human sex drive that he was working on. This caused him to have a contagious disease that caused many people to die. This story is clearly a representation of the AIDS epidemic during that time. If we are to look at it closely, the treatment that Dr.Graves experienced represents a kind of punishment to a person who goes out of the boundaries set by the moral agreement. Because he dared to explore a part of humanity that is in some way a ‘taboo’ that led to the spread of a deadly disease, he was treated like a criminal and a pest.

‘Homo’ the third story focuses on John Broom desire for John Bolton – a friend from the juvenile prison. This story is different from the other first two stories because it is set in a different community – a jail. The prisoners are people who already crossed the boundary and so the same moral standards of them may be different. It is like a smaller bounder society outside the bigger society. In this place, it is accepted for men to sleep with other men but to love another man is unacceptable and immoral. This is one of their unwritten rules. And what is the punishment for crossing the line? It is stigma.

From these stories, we can indeed see the consequences of the moral standards we abide for the people who cross the boundaries voluntarily or involuntarily. And through the different techniques and styles used in this film, it was able to communicate all these messages in an effective way. The use of mockumentary in Hero allowed the viewers to see and evaluate how people judge other people base on what they believe is decent. In the Horror film, the use of the B-movie style with all the exaggerated acting, bad make-ups and low quality set-ups, shows how people exaggerate the issue of AIDS and maltreat the victims of such disease. And lastly, in the third story Homo, darker colors and shadows was used inside the prison while brighter colors was used in the flashbacks to highlight the difference of Broom’s fantasy and reality.

And lastly, it is worthwhile to look at the writer Jean Genet and how his experiences translated in the stories showed in the film. As we know, Genet spent many of his years inside European prisons. So we can say that in those periods of his life, he was outside the bounded society. He went outside the boundary and he was punished for it. But it seems that these experiences ‘outside’ enabled him to see the flaws of the existing moral standards of our society. He was able to see how the current state of the human society marginalized or sometimes maltreat queer individuals or groups.

This film, ‘Poison’ may at first looks like another offensive scandalous gay film. But as we have seen, the film communicates various societal issues like morality. And it also encourages the viewers not to be jailed in one perspective alone but to explore other outlooks to further understand things. This is the message the ‘Poison’ communicated to me. And I hope you got the same messages too



tinborja said...

Intriguing. Confusing. Bothering.

Mixed emotions filled my system as the film Poison rolled in the unusually silent Political Science 167 room. I think everyone was deciding how to take the film in. It was extremely difficult to know how to react to Poison. Up till now, I am still undecided whether it’s a film I liked or not. Undeniably so, it has moments of remarkable beauty, but these are coupled with moments of equally off-putting disgust. The eroticism in the film triggers feelings of revulsion in general thus making the film all the more bothering and confusing at the same time. Still like many provocative films, Poison draws you in a way that you don’t like given that it draws you when you don’t want to be drawn, it makes you look and want more to make yourself understand the meaning of the film at the same time pushing you to look away out of pure contempt.

Indeed, I cannot say that I like Poison. I don’t think it’s a movie that invites you to like it anyway rather it’s a movie that makes you consider it both in whole and in part. Its not the kind of movie you’d enjoy watching out with friends on a relaxing date given that it’s the kind of movie that’ll make you want to leave the cinemas and go for something lighter. As such, one watches Poison for analytical purposes- to understand the dynamics of Political Socialization and Film for instance, to realize how independent films reflect society’s different kinds of poison.

The way the movie was made was intriguing and confusing at the same time given that it will take some time before you understand that its three different kinds of film with three different plots happening simultaneously. I’m not sure it was executed excellently though given that most of the time I was just confused with who’s doing what and why who’s doing such. If this is art at its best, then art at its best is ultimately confusing. I adhere to the reviews that Poison is artful in a way- the editing, the story line, the abstract puzzle pieces that will take some time to understand and create one’s notion of a perfect picture is art if art is a distant bit from reality.

The film went beyond the notion of art for art’s sake though for it forwarded advocacies and principles on the current state of society thus poison being that poison in the society that we live in. Whether that poison is the poison of pride, whether it be sexuality, gender-sensitivity, or all the other concepts gruesomely portrayed in the film, Poison indeed entrenches one’s system to see the harshness of reality in its portrayal that is far from the given reality to stimulate the viewer’s mind to think and analyze the moral poison that they are currently drinking.

denisefrancisco said...


Who or what dictates what may be considered as either right or wrong?

We live in a world where our actions are reflected by what others tell us to do. Conscious or unconscious, we make it a point to act in accordance to what others think is right. It is true that leaning towards the positive is a favorable decision to make. However, doing what is “right” limits our actions to the point that we become trapped in a small box, unaware of the other alternatives that we can choose from. We tend to live a life that is dictated by society, where a tendency of going against what should happen is automatically seen in a negative light.

Just like in the movie Poison, the issues presented in the 3 movies were considered as fatal realities. Such include homosexuality, sexual drive, murder, violence, adultery and domination or power. For example, the Hero part used the boy’s homosexual tendencies as a probable root cause for the murder of his father and as an explanation of his personality. The people who were interviewed in the movie kept on mentioning such issue, as if telling us that homosexuality is a sensitive issue that is condemned by the society, and is seen to cause negative behavior in human beings. As for the Horror part, much focus was given on sexual acts or desires. The fact that Dr. Graves had leprosy after accidentally drinking the formula for sexual drive is an example of the consequences of giving in to your sexual desires. Here, he slowly experienced deterioration in his physique, rejection by the people around him and even infected his own loved one with his disease. In my opinion, sexuality here was presented as something that is rejected by society. Sexuality can lead to isolation, rejection and even death to oneself. As for the Homo part, as expected, homosexuality was seen as a limiting factor. This limits the actions of people in a sense that homosexuals themselves find it hard to express their true selves for fear of people rejecting and judging them. Straight people on the other hand are also constrained by such reality in a sense that they tend to avoid personal contact with these homosexuals. But when you look at these pressing issues presented, you will get to realize that what really is poisonous is the society in which these people live in. I personally think that sexuality issues such as sexual drive and homosexuality are not as grave as they are presented in our society today. I’d like to think that these are just natural phenomena that are sensationalized by the people, due to the fact that they are still unusual in society. Because we are used to traditional views that when something deviant comes up, we automatically become skeptic, to the point that we make speculations about these things. And most of the time, these are negative speculations that cause us to automatically judge the people infected by such “poison”.

denisefrancisco said...


It is true that traditional views in society are still safeguards when it comes to the way we make our decisions. However, in a changing world right now, we have to be equipped with an open and optimistic mind. We must not allow ourselves to easily fall into the pit of what society dictates as the norms and moralities that we should live by. Having our own minds allow us to make decisions for ourselves. It’s just a matter of acting responsibly and using our conscience not only for our own benefit, but as well as that of others.

The society is still important as an institution that will forever exist. It is where we are situated as individuals. We cannot deny how important the society is to us. More or less, we can say that there is this sense of belonging in the society where we are. Yet in the end, we have to become more aware that not all that it dictates are the right things to do. The fact that we are rational beings gives us the capacity to weigh things before making the final decision where we ourselves are confident in choosing.


katwinny said...

Putting three movies in one easily makes you think that the film will really touch on many issues. But having these three movies shown as mixed together makes it hard for me to connect one issue from another. It makes it hard for me to grasp the film as a whole and understand what it wants to say. Full of scenes that are unconventional, weird and to some extent gross, it took time for me to appreciate it. Poison has three movies in it that discusses three important points: science, homosexuality and love.

Of the three movies, Horror was the only one that I easily understood, or at least part of it. This may be because the environment of the early 1990’s, the spread of AIDS, was given by the reporters before the film was shown. The issue of science being a cure or the source of disease is easily conveyed to the audience. An allegory for AIDS, this movie is a reflection of how science triggered the creation of a disease but was spread because of acts of men. The disease can also be looked at as a symbolism for homosexuality. People treat and look at you differently because of it.

Hero, the story of a boy who supposedly shot his dad, is a ‘mockumentary’. Until the mother told that she saw his son flew up in the sky, I genuinely believed that it really is a documentary and a true story. It has interviews of different people including labels and name, clips of news reports and a narrator. The story tackles a sensitive issue of a child being gay. This may be the reason why I did not grasp the meaning of this part of the film. I did not get, until only recently, that the look on the boy’s face while he was being spank by his father was of a sexual one. The point of the story I think is how easily we listen to the judgment and stories of people about someone without even trying to hear the side of that person. I really believed at first that the boy did what was accused to him.

“My heart is in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand is in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught.” This was on the screen after the scene of Broom attempting to place his hand inside Bolton’s pants. Homo is another movie that depicts life inside the prison cells, how order is maintained and power relations are built in such place. In this case, the prisoners need to act as tough guys. In other words, love is not allowed. In our society today, this exists especially with the idea of love between the same sex. Institutions still prohibit this and see it as a sin. Homo also mixes together the ‘gross’ and dirty things that we identify as such with technical styles that elevates them and makes them look bright and refreshing. Yes, I’m talking about the ‘spit game’ that the teenage boys played in one of Broom’s memories. It takes so much effort to remain and continue watching that whole scene.

This film touches the issue of our judgment on things as a social construct. We identify things and acts as dirty and gross because that’s what our society says so, but when you put it on a different context, then their meaning also changes. This is true to sex, homosexuality and even defecation. Poison is a film that it has so much importance during its time of release. But personally, it may stick to me for a long time but does not get on my favourite list.

Rivera, K.G.

remegio said...

Hero. Horror. Homo. Were the three words chosen by Todd Haynes to represent the three distinct flavours of his movie Poison. I agree with the main entry authors that these three different chunks of the movie are representations of societal problems rooting from the very concept of morality and its imposition to the society’s members. What I perceived from the movie was that the thing that is problematic is not morality itself but the way an action is being judged as moral or immoral. The process of negotiation and determining which is which is left out such that the standing concepts of morality, old as they were, are left untouched and immortalized. This gap in the process thus causes these ideas to be hegemonic, untouchable and permanent. The result is deficient product due to an incomplete process. This then defeats the very purpose of the concept of being a guide because it turns out to be very restrictive, prohibitive, un-accommodative and the worst absolute. If then this concept that does not embody the ideals and convictions of the members of the society are imposed on every member it results to various problems and complications in the society. The movies thus calls for the reformation of the concept to make it responsive to the changing attitudes and practices of the members of the society brought about by the changing times.

In the technical aspect of the film, the creators of the film excelled in making the film multi-perspective and very unimposing of point of view. Each of the three mini movies in the movie, treated separately, convey their own distinct messages in different styles and themes offering the viewer myriad perspectives thus making the film effective in conveying its point. Having so many perspectives and different messages in consequence results to a problem of coherence. Given so many perspectives, themes and stories, it is seems problematic how the editor and director would mesh the three mini movies and make it coherent. Poison has not just solved this problem, but has done it with finesse. This aspect is what I admire in the movie and which I believe is its greatest strength among others. The sequencing of the movie’s scenes was really great that the three different mini movies seem to be continuous and are part of one grand story even though they really are not. The movie was able to present and over arching connection between each story and to which identified the underlying problem in the three different stories. In this sense, it captures and shows the real condition of the issues of the society. The movie also suggests that the problems that involve the society cannot be studied and solved individually but should be analyzed in relation to one another.

The movie would be an effective instrument for political socialization given its multi-perspective, multi-dimensional and multi-themed conveyance of its message. Recognizing the fact that even though some societies today are more accommodative of the ideas being antagonized in this film, many societies still adhere to the and drink the poison in the which makes this film even though old, all the while relevant and significant.

Othello II/Lloyd said...

Disturbing yet thought provoking – this statement very well describes the motion picture “Poison”.

“Poison” is an independent film by American director Todd Haynes. The film was written and directed by Haynes and was released in 1991. It was partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and was based on some works of French literary writer Jean Genet. “Poison” consists of three different stories – “Hero” (a mock documentary about a boy who kills his own father and then flies away to the sky), “Horror” (a retro style movie about a well meaning scientist turned leper sex murderer), and “Homo” (a story of sexual desire and attraction to a fellow male prisoner). It won several awards, one of which is the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic category at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival.

There are a lot of contentious issues tackled by the film. These issues include morality (or immorality), and human sexuality. It must be noted that the three intercut stories presented in the film all feature the said contentious issues. In “Hero”, adultery (a generally immoral act) is the central theme; intolerable sex drive is the central theme of “Horror”; while same gender sex is the underlying theme of “Homo”. The three stories tackle issues which are sometimes considered taboo to be talked about. I do believe that the film serves as a vehicle to make its viewers think about the aforementioned issues. Extramarital sex, same gender sex, and sex mania are presented in the film in a way that will make a viewer think twice about the morality (or immorality) of these aforementioned acts that are commonplace in our society. To add, it’s as if the film is asking its viewers, “What acts are immoral?” or “What makes sex wrong?”
I found the plots of three stories difficult to follow due to the stories’ unconventional presentation. There was one point that I thought the film’s presentation was highly convoluted. I think the film could have been more effective in sending its message if the three stories were presented individually and in a conventional way. Nevertheless, I still appreciated the film’s presentation for it is something to new to a viewer like me.

The film may be an effective instrument of political socialization depending on who watches it. There is high probability that there will be movie watchers who will not appreciate it due to the sensitivity of the issues and themes featured. This may be the case for viewers who have deep seated values and beliefs that are very much different to themes and values presented in the film.

Todd Haynes’ “Poison” is generally a good film. Despite the stories’ unconventional presentation and its subject matter, I personally think that the film succeeded in raising viewers’ awareness and recognition that issues with regards to human sexuality tackled in the film do exist. It is one of those films that I will surely never forget due to its explicitness in tackling issues involving human sexuality.


Nons said...

What is poison? In the 1991 film with the same name, poison seems to refer to the various “ills” of society—real or imagined—that of infidelity, patricide, suicide, contagious diseases, society’s hypocrisy, homosexuality, rape and the horrors of prison life. Using three different movies which is aptly titled—“Hero”, “Horror” and “Homo”, Todd Haynes tried to show the true colors of these different “ills” in society. But later on, we see that this technique didn’t work to the advantage of the film.

We could commend Haynes’ attempt to portray these issues, a brave thing to do at that day and age. But it seems that he did too much for one film. Each movie seems to show at least three different themes. And then the usage of a non linear narrative to recount the stories of three different characters proves to be detrimental to the goal of the director. Instead of actually focusing on the themes itself, it really forces you to think long and hard where you really are in a particular movie, which then gives you little time to understand what is happening in the screen in front of you. In the end what we could see was a jumbled movie with an indistinguishable purpose.

There is also a need to point out the environment in which the film was made. It was the early 90’s where the spread of AIDS (Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was a big issue. At that time, society shunned people who have AIDS thinking them worse than they treat cockroaches and a film like Poison forced people to open their eyes to their hypocrisy and most especially to the true nature of AIDS. But even in this aspect, Poison seems to have fallen short of expectations. Because of the introduction given before the start of the film, I was led to believe that the film’s major focus was AIDS. It seems that at the end of the film, there is no particular message that the director wants to send to the audience.

But in this, Poison has redeemed itself. It doesn’t impose on the viewers the biases of the director and the writer, but rather, it allows the viewer to draw his own conclusion from the film. It actually shows what life really is for certain types of people. In this, Poison also allows the reader to put himself in the shoes of the character in the movie.

At the very end, we could actually say that Poison is a morality film. But unlike other morality films, it doesn’t teach what morality is. It actually questions what morality really is and society’s part in making sure that a certain morality code would be followed wherein certain things are not allowed or are frowned upon—overt sexuality, homosexuality, murder, adultery, and other “sins”. It also makes the person question the beliefs that he has, if they are really the ones that should be followed and enforced.

We could also say that Poison is actually comparable to Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo in that is actually tries to show the various “ills” of society—Rizal even calling these “ills” cancer of the society. It is also comparable given that the institutions within society are the ones that should be responsible over the “ills” or cancer and then give it a cure or remove these so that the nation could actually flourish.

Poison has been released almost two decades from today. But it seems that whatever “ills” of society that the film exposed is still present up to today. Though some issues have been watered down or are not really of that much importance anymore—for example AIDS, there are still others that are still in the spotlight and is still in need of resolution. In this Poison actually helps a society here and now to formulate policies in what should be done to avoid the situation present in society. But this is not an easy job to do, and for it to be successful, the presence and support of society should be apparent. And this, by far, is the most difficult thing to do.


Daben said...

Who should be blamed if all of us are victims? This is the main problem I see in the movie. The movie Poison 1991 by Todd Haynes shows a different view at queers and the AIDS spread in the 1990’s. The people would usually blame the homosexuals as the cause of the spread in AIDS. Even though the AIDS viral infection was more evident in homosexual individuals, this observation is still not a valid argument to generalize the involvement of the homosexuals in the viral spread. The movie would like to advocate the vanquishing of the discrimination about the queers and the removal of the misconception that homosexual individuals spread the virus.

The movie is definitely out of the ordinary. It both tickled and sickened the minds of the class while watching it. It can be a bit offensive to people who are narrow-minded. It involved scenes not acceptable to the standards of the society, especially in the Philippines. It is because the Philippines still keeps its belief that we are a conservative country. During the screening, my fellow students are covering their eyes or trying to show disgust in the events occurring in the movie. It is a challenging piece that provoked my sensibility and I love it for doing that even if I do not really like the movie itself. I just love the idea that there are these kinds of movies that can make me go out of my comfort zone and dispute my notion of right and wrong.

The movie involves three different movies in a single clip; three different lives unfolding all at the same time in the movie but stating a single message. A message stating that no one wanted the events occurring to happen; that there are no suspects in this chain of events; that there is no one to blame. It is saying that even the homosexuals are just victims of the culture, the traditions and the norms built around the thing we call society. The movie is trying to say that we are all equal in terms of these problems, because we are all humans; that we should transcend the narrow notion of sexuality.

But is there really no one to blame in this problem? Can we really say that the homosexuals are not at fault? We all know that AIDS is a viral infection spread through unsafe and unhygienic sex. It can occur in both male and female but why is it that it occurs mostly in male-male relationships? Can we say that heterosexual relationships are more safe and hygienic? I am not against or for the idea of homosexuality, but I think it is logical to ask these questions. I think that the movie was defending homosexuality using wrong basis. Just because society constructs barriers against homosexual relationships, it does not mean that they are not guilty of inappropriate sexual behavior. If they would be vigilant enough to protect themselves from the sickness, would there be this massive spread of the disease?

Mendoza, A

lenggaleng said...


Todd Haynes’ 1991 film entitled, “Poison”, is quite an extraordinary film as it tells not only one, but rather, three intercut different stories. What is more interesting is that these three different stories namely: Hero, Horror and Homo, had each distinct visual style. ‘Hero’ uses a mock TV-documentary style, ‘Horror’ is filmed like a 1950s black and white B-movie and ‘Homo’ uses dim light and dull colors in telling its story, but on the contrary, it uses bright and colorful flashbacks.

In ‘Hero’, it tells about the story of a 7-year-old boy named Richie and how he managed to kill his own father with a gun. As this part of the film uses a mock TV-documentary style, it shows different people being interviewed as to their opinions or views about who Richie really is. In ‘Horror’, a scientist isolates the elixir of human sexuality, accidentally drinks it and then becomes a contagious murderer. In other words, it was a story of a mad science experiment that went horribly wrong. Finally in ‘Homo’, a prisoner in Fontenal prison is drawn to an inmate whom he knew some years before, at Baton juvenile institute, and whose humiliations he witnessed. In other words, it was a gay love story set in a prison as it also explores the sexuality among the two male prison inmates.

Honestly speaking, I was not shocked or offended by the film as I was expecting that I would do so due to the constant warnings of our professor and the film presenters. I think that I am open to these kinds of films as I have seen more gruesome, queer and r-rated films than ‘Poison’. Nevertheless, I was not really able to stand the scene wherein a group of boys spit on another poor boy’s mouth. It seriously made me almost puke because it was really disgusting for me. In my mind I was asking myself, ‘Could a society really be this cruel?’

Now looking at the themes of this film, sexuality and social injustice are some of its central themes. Obviously, there is the theme of sexuality in the film as it is very evident in the story of ‘Homo’ and as the scientist in ‘Horror’ had an experiment on human sexuality and if I am not mistaken, his victims were usually female. Furthermore, social injustice is also a central theme of this film as one can see how society judges and criticizes the 7-year-old boy in ‘Hero’ and the scientist in ‘Horror’. The homosexuals in ‘Homo’ were not fairly treated as well by the society as they were bullied by other people. In general, there are a lot of social issues that were tackled by this film, such as family, gender and moral behavior.

lenggaleng said...


I think that when it comes to looking at the film from a political perspective, I must say that what is ‘political’ that can be found in ‘The 400 Blows’ and in ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ that I have discussed before applies to ‘Poison’ as well. I associate ‘The 400 Blows’ main character, Antoine Doinel, with Richie of ‘Hero’ as both of them challenge the order in the society since their behavior does not comply with their society’s rules and norms. Furthermore, the politics in here is that, who should be accountable for Richie’s behavior? I have seen that there were a lot of people who were interviewed about Richie in ‘Hero’ and yet, no one takes the responsibility for Richie’s odd behavior. On the other hand, what I have found that is political in ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ is identity politics. All of the three stories in the film tackle identity politics as the main characters in each of the story struggle to fit in society since they are unwanted due to their identity. What these main characters have in common is that they identify themselves with something that is considered not appropriate in the society.

All in all, aside from the fact that I was entertained by this film, it did not fail to also teach me a moral lesson as well. Watching this film made me reflect on my attitude towards those that are marginalized in the society. It really made me think as to who should really have the right to decide what or who is acceptable in society or not- is it the institutions and those who are in power? Moreover, the concept of the film’s title, which is ‘Poison’, made me think about this: Is it those marginalized groups or ‘unheard voices’ that poison our society, or is it society itself that poison these marginalized groups that is why they are different?



kristia said...


Directed by Todd Haynes and written by Jean Genet, Poison is certainly one of the most complicated, disturbing and multilayered films that you can watch. With three stories (Hero, Horror, and Homo) randomly weaved together, it requires an open mind to be able to appreciate such film.

In “Hero”, the main character is seven-year-old Richie who kills his own father and was said to be able to escape by flying away to the clouds. The rest of the “mocumentary” consists of testimonials from different people who describe Richie as an evil boy. The second (Horror) is a monster movie-style story about a mad scientist whose experiment on the human sex drive went wrong when he accidentally drank his experiment, transforming him into a leprous sex fiend. In “Homo”, we can see the story of a prisoner who was attracted to another prisoner that he knew from his days in the juvenile facility.

Although the three stories appear to be different from each other, not just in their storylines but with their use of different film techniques (colored scenes, black & white shots, and dim lights coupled with bright flashbacks), they all talk about one thing – the idea of morality. In this film, we are presented with different acts that can be considered as immoral: adultery, patricide, juvenile delinquency, extensive engagement in sexual acts or even the basic act of being sexual, stealing, homosexuality, and so on. The consequences of these acts were even shown – Richie was considered as a delinquent by the people around him, the doctor acquired a contagious disease that caused the people to make fun of him and even to stay away from him, the prisoner moved in and out of prison almost all his life and he was not considered “cool” by his co-prisoners because of his tendency to show some emotions.

kristia said...


The film then, portrayed the different immoral acts and the consequences of engaging in such acts. This statement implies two things: (1) that there are certain expectations from humans and (2) that there is an accepted definition of what is “right/moral” and what is “wrong/immoral”. As humans, everyone is expected to act in a certain way, in a way which emphasizes the idea of mutual benefit. I will act in a way that would please me yet at the same time (it) will not cause any harm to another person. Related to this is the idea of having a definition of what is “right/moral” and what is “wrong/immoral”, which guides the individuals on how they should act. One can then ask, who distinguishes one kind of act from another and what are the bases for those distinctions?

Poison, in this film then, can be said to refer to the society. Just like a poison which is a substance that causes illness, injury or death if taken into the body, the society can also be considered as a negative influence to the citizens. In an attempt to regulate the people by defining what is moral and what is immoral, the society somehow limits the actions of the individuals. Certain deeds are not committed by the citizens in an attempt to conform to what they think is right, and to what they perceive to be expected from them. But then again, what are the limits to these expectations and demands of society? For example, Richie committed the act of patricide and was considered by the society as a juvenile. Then again, we should consider the context of his action: he killed his father in an attempt to defend his mother. Should his act be still considered as immoral or like his mother, should we consider Richie a saint? Although it is important to distinguish what is right from wrong in order to maintain the peace and order in society, it is also vital that all acts should be contextualized. However, that will also lead to another question – how much leeway can you give a person? What would make an immoral act a moral act? Or will that be impossible?

Overall, Poison, with all its disturbing scenes can still be considered as a film worth watching. By presenting a somehow negative view of the society, it encourages a person to look into the society that she is in and learn to question the way it works.

Ina_Partosa said...


That is how I would describe this film. Not only was it a struggle to comprehend, the vivid images of the characters were so disconcerting it did nothing but alienate me from the story. It was one of a kind, that's a given. It was edited differently from the way mainstream films are edited. It requires the viewer's full attention in order to be understood and it was so radical in the way it tackled the "issues" of homosexuality and society.

On the technical aspect, I do have to commend the director for doing such a good job in the imitation of a documentary. The mockumentary was so realistic and it was very hard to discern whether it was real or not. The only thing that gave it away was the end part where the mother said that her son flew away after jumping from the balcony. The imagery of the other two films were seamless albeit repulsive and nauseating. The bodily secretion of the leper murderer while he was eating on a restaurant was really stomach-turning and unimaginable. This is the same for the other story "Homo" where one of the protagonists was made to stand in front of men jumping up and down, spitting at him. Moreover, the black and white mode of "Horror" was so apt for the plot because it successfully gave out a certain "Frankenstein-like feeling" to the audience. It would not work as brilliantly if it was done in colored film.

Personally, I did not like the movie very much compared to the previous movies we've watched in class. There was something about the story that made it forgettable for me. Even only a few hours after watching the film, I could not actually remember what transpired in the three plots. Maybe it was because of a lack of interest or maybe it’s also because the film's imagery was so repulsive that I found it really hard to associate myself with the story. Normally, when I find the film disturbing, it is easy for me to remember the plot because I will try to figure out what it really meant. For this film, it was the opposite. I did not find it very intriguing and provocative. This could be due to the fact that a lot has been going on in the film, what with those three stories woven into one, and it became too much for me. I found my interest dwindling at the middle of the film and it became very hard to focus because the movie has a tendency to drown its viewers in its images and information overload.

Overall, I could not really say that the film was enjoyable. It was very difficult to see what message it was trying to send across to the viewers. It was queer as queer can be, very radical and different from the mainstream media that people are used to. I am not used to that genre. It does not really give the viewer a breathing room to process the information about the characters. It was indeed, in my opinion, a “poison” for the mind that can instantly kill something inside the viewer.


louie.lisbog said...

Poison is a 1991 movie directed by Todd Haynes. It is considered to be a queer film because it tackles about gay rights and why they should be treated the same as everybody else. The movie is divided into three parts: hero, horror and homo. Hero is about a child accused of murdering his father but as the movie goes by, it shows that the child was being molested which might attributed to his bizarre behavior. The second part is Horror, about a doctor who got struck by leprosy-like disease and was spreading it in the community. And the last part is Homo, which is about a relationship between two male prison-mates, wherein John Broom tries John Bolton to remember that they knew each other long before by re-experiencing to John Bolton all the abuses and harassment that he went when they were at juvenile prison.

The film’s style of presenting this three-part movie is different from the usual. All three movies were presented together part by part. Because of this, this movie is quite hard to digest in the beginning but as the movie goes on, the viewer can put together all the pieces of all three films and integrate them together and understand what message that the film is trying to say. In terms of how the message was conveyed, I believe that the movie somehow is effective but not all viewers shall be able to enjoy this film especially those who are not used to watch such mature-themed films like this movie.

Equality and societal acceptance- these are the concepts that I got from watching this film. Some say that the gays are the new black, meaning, gays receive the kind of discrimination and maltreatment that the blacks had experienced decades ago. They also are being attributed by the spread of the HIV-AIDS virus. In effect, they are being veered away and receive several maltreatment and molestation because of being who they are.

But in the film, we had a chance to look at what they feel and experience based on the different situations presented on the three parts of the film. In the film, it is conveyed to us that even they are not normal in the eyes of many; people should always remember that they are all humans too. They deserve to love and to be loved, because it makes all people happy. Their rights should be protected just like everybody else, because no one wants to be molested and harassed. They should be treated as normal people, because they are not a contagious disease that can strike you and be killed.

This film, gave us viewers another side of the society- a side of the society that we often ignore and laugh about. We should always remember that God created all of us equal; therefore, we should treat everybody else, whatever sexual preference he has, equal and fairly because nobody deserves to be hated and maltreated.


migscardenas said...

"The whole world is dying of panicky fright."

- Opening line from Poison

Watching Poison is indeed an experience that will change how one perceives films. Disturbing as it is, the film presented an issue in a very unconventional manner. With three stories all rolled into one, you will certainly be amazed at how successful the integration had been. The stand-alone stories of each chapter were able to be consolidated in order to come up with a very strong message.

Poison is a 1991 independent film which was written and directed by Todd Haynes. The novels of Jean Genet partially inspired the different stories presented in the film. Genet’s personal experiences inspired him to write about them. This was Todd Haynes feature film debut. The movie stirred controversy when Poison was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. According to some critics, the movie was inappropriately funded since it showcased explicit scenes involving homosexuals.

Hero, Horror and Homo were the themes of the three intercut stories of the film. The first episode was shot in the talking-head manner of televised newsmagazines, simply put it utilized the mock documentary method. Though scripted, the film producers made it appear as if those were real. Interviews from different personalities who were involved in the incident were shown to understand what really happened. We are able to create an image of a child based on the conversations with these people.

Horror the second episode depicted a repressed medical researcher who was able to isolate a liquid version of human sex drive. He accidentally swallowed the liquid transforming him into a frightening ghoul. The exaggerated acting was part of the dark humour technique being employed in the film. To some extent, it reminded me of monster movies that we usually watch especially that it was in black and white.

Homo was the most challenging of the three. The prison setting added to the intensity of the film. It is very unlikely that such phenomenon happens inside penitentiaries. The story revolved around the longing of an inmate with his fellow inmate whom he knew back in juvenile detention where they were both admitted. The contrasting settings were instrumental in understanding what the episode was really trying to portray.

The three films though independent of each other were intelligently weaved to convey a message. They are all about knowing and defining oneself to the point of standing up in the face of discrimination, prejudice or misconceptions. In Hero, the reactions from the different people who knew the boy allowed us to get to know the kid much better from the point of view of others. The approach is very naturalistic and at the same time juxtaposed with long shots of the impassive housed where the boy grew up in. The way we are presented can influence the perception of other people towards us. Election in the country is fast approaching. Politicians come up with ads to present themselves to their constituencies. Our perception of them depends in part to the way they were portrayed in these ads. Horror depicted a man who was trapped in his earthly desires. Many “epidemics” pose great threats to the society. Perpetuating the interest of a few individuals can be detrimental to the polity as a whole. It may be likened to a leprosy which gradually decays the human body. Lastly, Homo was able to show how one can experience prejudice and discrimination when one goes against the norms in our society. One should assert himself in order to be accepted in the environment where he lives. The movie also tried to address the issue of sexual fear by tackling AIDS implicitly in the film. By knowing the context when the film was made, we are able to appreciate more the essence of the movie.

rotcivcumigad said...

Political science 167, being a political socialization class through exposure to different type of movies, allowed me to be receptive to unconventional, albeit completely uncommon, film-making processes and, consequently, to have new levels of expectations to deal with them. Every movie presented new opportunities to explore other kinds of methods in conveying political content, but none had prepared me for something like Poison.

Poison, directed by one of the renowned New Queer Cinema filmmakers, Todd Haynes, is a film that I had never encountered before, and it makes me think about the effectiveness of the manner by which the social issues depicted in this film were covered. The film, actually, had gone through a plot development, though it took me sometime to be able to make sense of the three intertwined stories that catered techniques from both sides of the reality versus fiction spectrum. The first story, “Hero” was presented as a documentary, and that automatically started my suspension of disbelief. The use of prominent people in a society, such as the teachers, the police, and other school employees, along with the account of the mother, are common methods on documentary-making. Such were done to be able to make sense to a unsettled occurrence—and that’s what it just did: it looked through Richie’s life story in hope of shedding light to his mysterious “disappearance”. “Horror”, on the other hand, is “Hero’s” complete opposite in terms of the techniques Haynes used. It is a black and white film, with exaggerated actors and camera angles that depicted the story of Dr. Graves and his sudden misfortune. Not being quite used with these types of film, we see the dramatic shift from one’s suspension of disbelief to utter skepticism in this story. But as this story went on, it revealed multiple layers of social and moral issues that had actually happened in reality: the AIDS epidemic. Lastly, “Homo” is filmed in a more conventional way, though the issues it exposed were far from that. It is conventional in a sense that it is very explicit it the messages it conveyed. It is also less confusing, with the present told in dim light—as the setting of the story is a prison—and the past using bright and well-lit flashbacks. Such method is to depict the changes in the protagonist’s life, wherein John felt somewhat blissful during his life in a counterfeit world of men among men.

Generally, the independent plot developments of those three stories are commendable and could be appealing to some, but the manner by which those three stories were packed in this single film affected the over-arching development of the film. There has to be some sort of coherence that should be established by Poison as a whole, and that depends on the way these three stories were told, including the techniques by which they are shown. The problematic thing about Poison is that it was very unconventional, and expectations are bound to dictate whether the film did make sense as a whole. But that is ultimately the reason why we are in a film class. It is to get out of our comfort zone and interpret movies in a more responsible way through widened expectations and criticalness. It might seem initially that Poison was confusing and very much enigmatic, but that extent of bewilderment and intricacy of this film are the reasons that allowed Poison, and all its metaphors and the multitude of issues it covered, linger on us. And it is through these lasting impressions that allowed us to make more sense of it, rather than just dubbed it as a merely forgettable movie.


Anonymous said...

“Poison both parodies and challenges the conventions of classic Hollywood." Its very form, for instance, is out of the conventional. The use of three narratives, intertwined in one film disregards the usual formulation of one narrative is to one film. Further, Haynes provides elements in the film (i.e. the bodily fluids -blood, pus, saliva - and the ruthless “equation of love and death”) to bind the narratives and make a single text out of three stories. “Everything amplifies everything else.”

As has been argued, a film is a text that is embedded with political content. The manner of presentation therefore should be considered a textual effect, an attempt to influence the audience, rather than a determinant of the realism contained in the film. This is true when we see that the contention that lies behind Poison (1991), as one of the first feature films to be ‘about’ AIDS in the ‘right way,’ is that the disease “does not exist apart from the practices that conceptualize it, represent it and respond to it.” Hence, the reality of AIDS is more of a social construction. James Morrison even argued that AIDS is to be understood as much a crisis of meaning as a crisis of medicine.

Haynes examines this issue of signification more obviously in the ‘Horror’ part of the film. It was held as a representation of the hatred, violence, and fear represented in the condemnation of gay art exacerbated by the increasing visibility of homosexuality and AIDS. The narrative can be said as a representation of the meanings of AIDS rather than the experiences that goes with it. Dr. Graves, for instance, has been presented as a personification of the dread towards homosexuality. He even characterized himself as “the pitiful result of some indulgence.” The same dynamic of isolation and abjection can be observed in the other two narratives: John Broom’s flashbacked experiences and Richie’s peculiar description. Haynes, as in most of his films, staged his characters within “easily repeated systems and histories of meaning,” that of homophobia, self-hatred, punishment and flight. The AIDS crisis is a mere manifestation of these repeated stories, isolating and punishing nonconformity, especially now that the disease has become a more visible indication of illicit (homo)sexual encounters.

Poison then is about deviance and the pain of isolation that deviance generates; it illustrates “society’s practice of penalizing deviants by stigmatizing them.”The perspective presented in the film is that of the dominant, “highly judgmental mainstream” culture. Haynes, while providing an analysis of the AIDS crisis, attempts to challenge the mainstream system of meanings appropriated to the queer community by the dominant culture. Being a part of the AIDS activism starting in the late 1980s, he can be grouped with the New Queer Cinema filmmakers, characterized by B. Ruby Rich as creating “a flock of films that were doing something new, renegotiating subjectivities, annexing whole genres, [and] revising histories in their image.” Rich further observed that “there are traces...of appropriation and pastiche, irony...with social constructionism very much in mind.”Poison, as part of this movement, attempts to question conventional ideas, not only of filmmaking, but that of norms and significations appropriated not only to the queer community, but of deviants, in general.


jolly said...


Todd Haynes' Poison (1991) is one film that evokes extreme responses. On one hand, it is possible that one would love the film because of its innovation and clever use of techniques; on the other hand, one would consider it objectionable because of its use of sex and violence as prevailing themes. Nonetheless, the fact is that the film is compelling enough to push viewers at the edge of their seats, be it in a negative or positive light.

To fully appreciate the film as an engaging art form, it is important to put it into context: This seminal independent movie propelled the New Queer Cinema to the limelight. At the start of the 1990s, personalities such as Rev. Donald Wildmon criticized the National Endowment for the Art's production of such so-called "filth". Highly controversial, Haynes' low-budget movie explored issues such as sexually-transmitted diseases and homosexuality without apology. In this movie, there were three separate short films that were merged in a non-linear, haphazard way: “Hero”, a mockumentary that tells the account of a misunderstood 7-year old boy who accidentally shoots his father, was told through the different points of view of his immediate contacts. “Homo” explores the romantic chemistry between two homosexuals—a prisoner and his fellow inmate. Finally, “Horror” is a black and white 50s-style sci-fi flick that follows the life of a doctor who accidentally drinks a vial that was invented to supposedly purify and capture man’s libido.

The way I see it, these stories mirrors the alienation of its protagonists and calls for us to rethink our construction of morality. What is good and what is bad? Who dictates this sort of mindset? Morality is, after all, a construction of society—dictated by those prevailing institutions that have established itself in the course of time. What happens to those at the margins is very well explored in the course of the film. For instance, in “Hero”, we come to realize that there is subjectivity even in the most “realistic” approach to analyzing any event. Haynes explicitly used a documentary approach to compel us viewers to question the standards. There is more than one side to every story, and the account of the troubled 7-year old was given layers of truth through the narration of different points of view. “Horror”, on the other hand, seemed to me like an old school, low budget horror film that exaggerated the consequences of a sexual disease on the individual and societal level. This technique seemed to mock the prevailing dissent for the taboo of STDs during the time, especially when it came to the caricature-like disposition of the angry mob. It underscored the powerlessness of the individual in determining his own path given a certain undesirable set of consequences. This had been so prevalent that one can only laugh about its gravity. Finally, I particularly liked “Homo” the least for it’s the one that I connected least with. Although it indeed bears the poetic vision of Jean Genet, it is too much in your face for me to bear. This is precisely where the love or hate discord comes to the picture: brutal sex scenes or two men in prison or the ritualistic “urination” of the prison-leader to name a few does indeed serve a metaphor against the status quo when it comes to a certain theme; however, it is not enough to filter out the true meaning of the art form into the minds of the viewers.

jolly said...


It is no wonder that the short stories each tackled a striking issue that is seldom touched by mainstream filmmakers. As my Film12 professor stressed in class a few sems ago, one of the compelling reasons for a film to be produced and distributed is primarily for profit. Seeing that issues such as homosexuality, shooting, and STDs are not the things people would pay to see, it makes viewers who are used to the typical fare brace themselves at the edge of their seats. It was undoubtedly a one of a kind experience, for it gave flesh to such unspoken issues through a remarkable art form. It breaks conformity not only in its content, but also in the way it was presented, as it uses a non-linear approach of conveying three separate short films.

Personally, I appreciated the fact that the film was able to convey its message in a very creative way. Its multilayered approach to themes of homosexuality, sex, violence and fetishes were something that you have to dig deeper into to find meaning. Todd Haynes created something not for the faint-hearted, and came up with it at just the right time.