Saturday, 7 April 2012

Holy Smoke

Channel Four Films has recently devoted a short season to the films of Kate Winslet, the remarkable Australian actress with ix Oscar nominations and about whom I have devoted several previous writings for work, especially in Heavenly Creatures, Sense and Sensibility, Jude, Hamlet, Titanic, Enigma, Iris, The Life of David Gale, Sunshine of the Eternal Mind, Little Children, The Reader, Revolutionary Road and Mildred Pierce, Then there is my favourite- Hideously Kinky and the two films which I will concentrate in this piece of writing: Holy Smoke and Quills

There are four issues covered in these two films, the power of sex to create and destroy life, the power which some individuals can exercise over others, the true nature of the Master/slave/subject relationship and Sado Masochism.

In Holy Smoke a young Australian woman (Winslet) from the suburbs journeys to India with a friend and becomes influenced by a Guru to the extent she decides not to return home. He mother is upset and assembles her family, putting up the cash to hire an exit counsellor to bring her home and undo the assumed brainwashing although in this instance the girl has experienced a sudden revelation about herself and is attempting to gain further insights by undertaking good works.

The development of specialist therapists to rescue those who have become members of cults gained momentum in the USA and elsewhere arising from a number of internationally known incidents from the Charles Manson murders to the mass suicides. Individuals have been kidnapped by their families, parents, husbands, legal guardians and then put through an intense process which attempts to undo their attachment. I will leave for the moment the morality of doing this in relation to adults of sound mind and progress the story.

The mother decides to hire an established and highly regarded practitioner, (Harvey Keitel) after she visits and persuades her daughter to return because her father is terminally ill. He is not does nor cares about what his daughter wants to do with her life but agrees as a cover for his infidelity with his secretary. Once home Kate realises she been brought back through a ruse but agrees to spend three days 24/7 with Keitel in an isolated cabin in the desert outback.

As in any situation involving a therapist (master role) and client (subject) the need for emotional detachment on the part of the therapist is fundamental especially if there is sexual attraction or the subject is intellectually similar or superior. Usually the client is voluntary and knows they need help and it a very different situation when the client is persuaded against their better judgement and do not believe they require help. What Keitel does is to exploit the normal insecurities, idealism and life inexperience of his subject and presents visual accounts of the situations previous mentioned to demonstrate the damage which can be done. However Kate uses the potent mixture of her vulnerability and being captive together with her gorgeous body which she shows naked to him and to the audience to reverse the tables.

He becomes sexually besotted and sexually dependent while she shows contempt for his sexual ability puts him in a dress and paints his face with make up and abuses. He appears to enjoy this. There is a series of explosive and love hate scenes between the two.

The postscript to the film is a positive one. Kate returns to India with her mother as father has gone off with his secretary and commences a relationship with a young an implied inexperienced Indian boy, having during a break in the process when friends come to visit and they go night clubbing together she engages in kissing the friend who went to India with her and is fondled by the men friends. She appears to be as experienced if not more experienced that Keitel in several respects.

She sends Keitel a postcard with her news that he has her love albeit at a distance. He has married his assistant and they have twins. He is touched by getting love and the continuation of a conspiratorial relationship is covered by his email reply stating that he is not disclosing the contact or its nature with his wife.

The film will be regarded by some as a cautionary tale, exposing the dangers of getting involved with guru’s and cults and of the therapist client relationships which are not conducted by professionals in supervised locations. However this would be a simplistic response as the truths are partial. Gurus and cult leaders should not be bracketed with psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counsellors although some Gurus have years of training and applied knowledge behind them and act in a professionals way towards those who seek their advice and help whereas trained therapist who are members of professional bodies and who work under supervision can become attracted by opposites, seduced and manipulated and consequently damage already damaged, disturbed and vulnerable individuals.

The aspect of the film which impressed me was the turning of tables in which Kate exposes unmet needs and desire of Keitel. It has to be emphases that the character played by Kate is ineffective blackmailed into participating in the therapy. In this instance the outcome is positive for both but in real life things are likely to work out different.

No comments:

Post a Comment