Things Behind the Sun (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
We agree that this obscure film is an unheralded small-audience masterpiece that digs deep into the soul of the auteur. You have to be pretty damned jaded not to be moved by this one.
Scoop's comments in white
Things Behind the Sun is an excellent movie, but one so intensely personal that it is uncomfortable to watch. Writer/Director Alison Anders was raped when she was 12 years old, then brutally manhandled by a stepfather until she ran away from home at 17. This period in her life left her damaged in many ways, and she has probably struggled to cope with and understand the damage to this very day. She took all of the outrage and sadness about her interrupted childhood and put it into this semi-autobiographical movie. Your emotional reaction to this film will be even further intensified when you realize that the rape in the film was shot in the very same house in which the director was actually raped as a child. Talk about drama as catharsis.
Kim Dickens plays the rape victim, the character who serves as Anders's alter ego. She's the lead singer of a garage band which has started to attract some notice on college radio stations because of a cult hit which is really about the rape incident. The group has become famous enough to attract the attention of a magazine like Rolling Stone. One of the magazine's writers realizes that he knew the lead singer when they were children, and endeavors to write the definitive article about her burgeoning career. In reality, he had once been her best friend in childhood, and was later one of the boys who raped her. His big brother engineered the rape, and forced the younger brother to participate after the older boys were finished. The brutal incident affected him as much as it affected the rape victim. As we join in on the present time, he has never been able to make love to a woman at all, and she has spent her adult life getting drunk and re-enacting the rape with multiple strangers.
When the writer arrives to begin the interviews, he realizes that the woman doesn't remember anything about their childhood friendship, and has repressed all specific memories of the rape itself. The singer thinks at first that his real agenda is simply her music, so her attitude toward him keeps shifting as more and more is revealed.
This film has a very economical script and a gritty feeling of reality to it. The first half doesn't establish much emotional connection to the characters, but the second half is intense, involving, and sad, although it does leave a bit of room for hope at the end. I really found myself being impressed and drawn in by the stark honesty of the script, and I recommend it freely to anyone who finds the description appealing, but I have to caution you that the film has some limitations:
Tuna's comments in yellow
Things Behind the Sun (2001) is an
Independent film from writer/director Allison Anders, in large part
based on her own rape at a very young age. As the film opens, her alter
ego (Kim Dickens), passes out drunk on the lawn of a house. We have no
idea why. We soon learn that she doesn't either, but this is the third
year in a row that she has done this. Normally, she is kept busy being
the drunken lead singer of a band whose music, in large part, talks
about her gang rape as a young girl. The rest of her time is spend being
a pain to her manager and wannabe savior and lover, Don Cheadle.
Things Behind the Sun was shot on a very aggressive schedule on digital video, but is technically sound. Since both leads are part of the music business, the songs and sound track were very important, and Anders got clearance on an amazing number of songs for the soundtrack. All of the performances were spot on. The flashbacks where specially adjusted to have a very different look than the current time stuff. They were shot highly saturated, desaturated, then pumped with yellow and red, for a very distinctive feel that was nonetheless very clear.
It is hard to imagine that anyone could watch this film without being moved by it. So much of it has the ring of truth. This is not a feel good film, although each of the characters finds all the redemption they deserve, but it is certainly an effective one, and will give most people many things to think about.
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