- 1h 31m
At 2:37, someone commits suicide in the school lavatory. The day is told up to that point from the viewpoint of six different students.At 2:37, someone commits suicide in the school lavatory. The day is told up to that point from the viewpoint of six different students.At 2:37, someone commits suicide in the school lavatory. The day is told up to that point from the viewpoint of six different students.
We have the case of Marcus and Melody: brother and sister. They come from a wealthy family, well structured around male hegemony. Their father is very much alike the primordial father from a tribe that Fred describes in Totem and Taboo. This primordial father can have carnal knowledge with his offspring, because in these mythical prehistoric time no such thing as incest exists; however, the jealous sons will savagely kill the father, this powerful alpha male (a figure that bears some resemblance with Lacan's inverted E, which symbolized "the one man not castrated"). By killing the totem-father only taboo remains, and thus incest becomes the ultimate sin. When Marcus witnesses his father having sex he attributes this attitude as a total disregard for moral codes, after all, Marcus seems to imply that his father acts in such a way that he has no choice but to witness the coitus. This traumatic event triggers something deep inside his consciousness and as a result the incest fantasy and the rape fantasy will become firmly inserted in his psyche.
The first scene with Luke, the high school jock, is most revealing, as we see him in his bedroom, in front of his computer, stroking his penis most vigorously. What images appear in the computer screen? Luke is struggling with his own sexuality, he is in a place that Lacan would denominate 'minus phi' which is the inscription of a point of fracture in the imaginary, that indicates a certain fissure that affects the constitution of the libidinal object in which one's own image finds support.
"Uneven" Steven is a kid that suffers of genetic malformations, not only does he have one leg longer than the other, but he also has a condition that makes him lose control of his sphincters, and as a result he wets himself in class, becoming the target for everyone's cruel jokes.
Then there is Sean, a boy that openly assumes his homosexuality and pays the price for it, being constantly mocked by Luke's friends and other guys in school. The only way for him to cope with this is escaping into a world of stupor produced by his marijuana consumption.
Finally there are two girls that play a very relevant role in this film, that owes much to Gus Van Sant's (listed in the credits) realistic and insightful approach of adolescence: Sarah, Luke's girlfriend, makes the mistake of caring too much for her boyfriend, and consequently once she begins to have doubts about her future with him, everything falls apart. Kelly, on the other hand, is perhaps the nicest person in school. She seems to genuinely try to help everyone, she is kind with boys and girls, instead of creating problems she tries to find a solution for them. When everyone attacks Steven she makes sure he's going to be OK.
However, all of them suffer from teenage angst. But this is not the typical, cliché angst. Lacanian psychoanalysts might ask why despite all the amount of scientific knowledge that has been accumulated, and the efforts to establish theories that presuppose to grant us reassurance (Levis Straus structuralism and Hegel historicism that aims towards the acquisition of the Absolute Knowledge, in other words a conceptualization that implies a theory without remainders) we still experience restlessness? Lacan asked himself "why is it that we so much want to preserve the dimension of anxiety?". Anxiety is a horrible thing and yet is there a human need to preserve it? In this regard Kierkegaard may be closer to the question of angst when he speaks about the psychological ambiguity concerning this concept "Anxiety is a sympathetic antipathy and an antipathetic sympathy". Arguably, the existence of angst points out to something that cannot be reduced to a rational category, and without which a truly reflection on the question of ethics is useless. We find this sympathetic antipathy in characters like Marcus, who has a strong relationship with his sister and at the same time despises her. The antipathetic sympathy is present in Kelly, the sweetest girl that treats everyone kindly but that secretly feels alienated, incapable of anything but antipathy for herself.
However they are all connected, and what they do will affect the lives of the others. What happens then when during the first minutes of the film someone commits suicide? Life is a tricky business, that's for sure. But life as teenagers can be even trickier.
- Mar 31, 2011